Bluebird Species and Identificatio
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Bluebird vs. Blue Jay: How to Tell Them Apart

Bluebirds and Blue Jays are both stunning birds with vibrant blue plumage that can sometimes lead to confusion, especially for bird enthusiasts just starting their journey into the avian world. We’ll delve into the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between these two beautiful birds, helping you become an expert in distinguishing Bluebirds from Blue Jays. So grab your binoculars, and let’s embark on this birdwatching adventure!

Bluebird Basics

Bluebird Appearance

Bluebirds are small, dainty birds with a predominantly blue coloration. The Eastern Bluebird is the most common species found in North America. These birds exhibit a lovely combination of sky-blue feathers on their back, wings, and tail, while their breast is a warm, rusty orange.

Bluebirds are celebrated for their elegant and distinctive appearance, which is a testament to their charming allure. The Eastern Bluebird, in particular, is a prime example of their unique physical characteristics.

Blue Plumage

The most striking feature of Bluebirds is their stunning blue plumage, which blankets their backs, wings, and tail. The blue of the Eastern Bluebird is reminiscent of a clear, cloudless sky on a perfect summer day. It’s a soft, cerulean blue that immediately captures the eye. Imagine the serene and calming hue of the ocean, and you’ll have a good sense of the blue that adorns the Bluebird’s upper body.

Rusty Orange Breast

One of the most defining features of Bluebirds is their captivating rusty orange or “brick-red” breast. This vibrant color stands in delightful contrast to their blue feathers. Picture the warmth of a glowing ember or a beautifully aged terracotta pot, and you’ll have a sense of the rich, fiery shade that graces their chest.

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Modest Beak and Compact Size

In terms of size, Bluebirds are relatively petite, measuring between 6 to 8 inches in length. Their beaks are slender and not overly conspicuous, designed for precise foraging. These small but skillful birds use their beaks to snatch up insects, their primary food source.

Gentle Melodious Calls

Besides their enchanting appearance, Bluebirds are known for their peaceful and melodious songs. Their vocalizations are a symphony of soft, warbling tunes. These songs are a soothing and reassuring presence in gardens and meadows, often described as nature’s lullaby. It’s like having your personal choir of serenaders right in your backyard.

Bluebirds are like living pieces of art, combining soft blues and warm oranges, and their presence adds a touch of elegance to any natural setting. It’s this distinct appearance and enchanting song that make Bluebirds beloved among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

Distinctive Features of Bluebirds

Bluebirds are known for their peaceful, melodious calls, often described as soft, warbling tunes. They have a modest beak and are usually around 6 to 8 inches in length, making them relatively small in the bird kingdom.

Bluebird Habitat

Bluebirds tend to prefer open spaces like meadows, fields, and gardens. They are cavity-nesting birds, often occupying old tree holes or birdhouses. Providing suitable nesting sites can be a great way to attract Bluebirds to your yard.

The Preferred Bluebird Nesting Locations

Keep an eye out for Bluebirds in open spaces with perches, as they like to have a clear view of their surroundings while foraging for insects.

Blue Jay Basics

Blue Jay Appearance

On the other hand, Blue Jays are larger and more robust than Bluebirds. They sport striking blue plumage on their upper body, but their undersides are white with distinctive black markings. Blue Jays also have a striking blue crest on their head, which can be raised or lowered depending on their mood.

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Unique Characteristics of Blue Jays

Blue Jays are known for their raucous calls and vocal versatility. They can mimic the calls of hawks, making other birds scatter in alarm, creating a unique auditory experience in your backyard.

Blue Jay Habitat

Blue Jays are highly adaptable and can be found in various environments, including forests, parks, and suburban neighborhoods. They are opportunistic feeders, consuming a wide range of food, from nuts and seeds to insects and even small vertebrates.

What Attracts Blue Jays

Blue Jays are particularly fond of bird feeders, especially those stocked with sunflower seeds. They also enjoy water sources, so consider adding a birdbath to your yard to attract these striking birds.

How to Tell Them Apart

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s explore some key differences to help you distinguish between Bluebirds and Blue Jays effortlessly.

Size Matters

One of the most apparent distinctions between these two birds is their size. Bluebirds are smaller and more delicate, while Blue Jays are larger, measuring around 10 to 12 inches in length. This size contrast can be a quick and reliable way to tell them apart.

Plumage Colors

While both birds share the word “blue” in their names, their shades of blue differ. Bluebirds have a softer, gentler blue on their upper body, resembling the color of the daytime sky. In contrast, Blue Jays have a vibrant, deep blue with white underparts, creating a more striking contrast.

Crest vs. No Crest

Look for the crest on the head – Blue Jays have one, while Bluebirds do not. When a Blue Jay gets excited or agitated, it raises its crest, creating an instant identifier.

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Calls and Sounds

Bluebirds emit sweet, musical songs, while Blue Jays are known for their harsh, discordant calls. Blue Jays often mimic other birds and even some mammals, making their vocalizations distinctive.


Bluebirds are typically more peaceful and prefer open spaces, while Blue Jays are more robust and adaptable, often being found in a broader range of habitats.

Habitat Preferences

If you spot a bird near a well-kept birdhouse, it’s likely a Bluebird. Blue Jays are less selective about their nesting sites and can be found in various environments.


Distinguishing Bluebirds from Blue Jays can be both an enjoyable and rewarding pursuit for bird enthusiasts. The variations in size, color, crest, calls, and habitat preferences make it relatively straightforward to tell them apart once you know what to look for. So, if you’re an amateur birder or an experienced birdwatcher, don’t forget to keep these key differences in mind during your next avian adventure, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert in identifying these magnificent birds. Happy birdwatching!

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