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Number of species: 80

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Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata

Older Blue Jays are generally recognizable by their brighter blue plumage and darker barring, especially on the primary and greater coverts and tail. Determination of sex is limited to brood patch / cloacal protuberance during the breeding season.

Quick Tips:

  • Look at the alula and primary coverts - on HY/SY birds they are grayish-brown and unbarred, while on AHY/ASY birds they are blue with dark bars.
  • Check for molt limits among the greater coverts - HY/SY birds often retain dull grayish blue outer coverts contrasting with brighter blue inner coverts, while on AHY/ASY birds all greater coverts are bright blue with dark barring.
  • Examine the tail - some HY/SY individuals have replaced their central rectrices, which are contrastingly fresh and bright.
  • Examine the upper mandible lining - on HY/SY birds it is a mottled mix of white and black, while on AHY/ASY birds it is mostly to entirely black.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Unknown
Alula and primary coverts grayish-blue with little or no dark barring. Molt limit between greater and primary coverts or among greater coverts, with inner replaced feathers brighter blue. The roof of the mouth is usually mottled white and black.
Thumbnail - MH3-1232-26349-Cyanocitta_cristata-145.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1232-26349-Cyanocitta_cristata-146.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1232-26349-Cyanocitta_cristata-147.jpg
After hatch year / Unknown
Alula and primary coverts bright blue, with faint to distinct dark barring. Additionally, the roof of the mouth is entirely black in after-hatch-year birds.
Thumbnail - MR3-1603-01189-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-1608.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-1603-01189-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-1609.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-1603-01189-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-1610.jpg Thumbnail - MR3-1603-01189-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-1611.jpg

Thumbnail - IS2-1372-00356-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-4688.jpg
Second year / Unknown
Alula and primary coverts grayish-blue with little or no dark barring. Molt limit between greater and primary coverts or among greater coverts, with inner replaced feathers brighter blue.
Thumbnail - IS2-1372-00356-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-4686.jpg
After second year / Unknown
Alula and primary coverts bright blue, with faint to distinct dark barring.
Thumbnail - JMW-1603-84256-Cyanocitta_cristata-243.jpg

Thumbnail - MH3-1232-58549-Cyanocitta_cristata-299.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1232-58549-Cyanocitta_cristata-300.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1232-58549-Cyanocitta_cristata-301.jpg

Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1583-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-4284.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1583-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-4283.jpg Thumbnail - LG3-NA_1583-Cyanocitta_cristata_AOU_7_52-4285.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Number of species: 80

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