The loudmouthed blue jay is a resident of most of the eastern and central U.S. and is very common at backyard bird feeders. While sometimes mischievous, they can be very beneficial to the environment. They have been known to feed hundreds of tentworm caterpillars to their nestlings, and their love of acorns may be partially to thank for the distribution of new oak trees after the last ice age.
These birds and their relatives are known for their intelligence. Jays have elaborate social systems and close family bonds. They have been observed using tools such as sticks or strips of newspaper to draw their food near, and they are capable of learning to imitate human speech. They are also adept at mimicking the calls of other birds, so that blue jay calls are sometimes indistinguishable from those of birds as varied as hawks, chickadees, and gulls.
The blue jay is a species whose feathers share the trait of structural color. This means that the feathers are not actually blue, but gray. The feathers refract light to create the color which we perceive as blue. If the feather is damaged, the structures required to refract light are destroyed and the damaged area will never be blue again.
The oldest bird ever banded at the museum station was a blue jay that was 16 years old!