How Long Do Blue Jays Live?

With their mosaic-like tail and wing feathers, these blue beauties have a place in every bird watcher’s heart. Blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) are one of the most incredible looking birds in the world, but how long do these birds live? We’re looking at the life of the North American blue jay, how these birds survive and thrive and for how long.

Blue jays live, on average, for about seven years. The oldest blue jay in the wild was believed to be 17 years and six months old. While one female in captivity lived to be 26 years and three months.

If blue jays can survive into their teenage years, why is their average life span only seven years? Well, there are a number of factors. Keep reading to see why blue jays have an average life span of 7 years.

Blue jays have a number of predators in the wild, which is why making it past their 7th birthday is very difficult. Hawks, falcons, owls, crows, other jays, opossums and raccoons are all known to kill blue jays.

On average, blue jays live for around 7 years

On average, blue jays live for around 7 years

What is the typical lifespan of blue jays?

In the wild

The lifespan of a blue jay in the wild is about 7 years on average. The oldest known wild blue jay ever lived to be 17 years and 6 months old. Sadly, due to having many predators, it is very rare for a blue jay to reach an age like this.

In captivity

The oldest blue jay ever was a female in captivity who lived to be 26 years and 3 months old. The lifespan of a blue jay in captivity is much higher than in the wild, though, with many blue jays reaching 10-15 years of age and older.

How do most blue jays die?

Blue jays have many predators in the wild, and so most blue jays are killed and eaten. Cats, snakes, hawks, owls, falcons, crows, raccoons and opossums all kill blue jays.

Thankfully, blue jays are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so they are not hunted by humans as well. You can get a permit to hunt blue jays, but most people leave these beautiful birds alone. So, it is predators and not humans that kill the most blue jays.

Blue jay in flight during winter

Blue jay in flight during winter

What is the life cycle of a blue jay?

Like all creatures in the wild, the blue jay’s life cycle focuses on mating. A blue jay must have chicks to keep its DNA moving down the line. So, once they leave the nest (around 21 days after they are born), they will stay with their parents for 1-2 months to learn how to feed and to survive. After this, the young blue jay will be out on its own.

Blue jays reach maturity after about a year, and this is when they try and find a mate. Blue jays mate for life, so this early stage is really important. Once they find a mate, they will nest with each other every year from late April through July. Both sexes of blue jay help to raise the young, and males even help to keep the eggs warm, although much of this work is done by the female.

After each nesting season, blue jays will fly off and find food. They will then continue this process year on year until the end of their life. The most important thing a blue jay can do is reproduce, so finding a suitable mate is of great importance.

Two Blue jay fledglings

Two Blue jay fledglings

How can you tell the age of a blue jay?

It is basically impossible to tell how old a blue jay is unless you have seen it since it was young.

The oldest blue jay ever recorded in the wild lived to be 17 years and 6 months old. This is known because researchers kept an eye on the bird for all that time. As many blue jays die in 7 years, there isn’t a tell-tale sign of how old they are. They don’t often reach old age, so they don’t get grey feathers, a bad back or knees like humans do.

What are the predators of blue jays?

The blue jay has many predators, and this is why they don’t live too long in the wild. The predators of blue jays include snakes, owls, hawks, cats, raccoons, crows, opossums and even other jays. Squirrels have been known to prey on blue jays in rare cases as well.

Blue jay perched in a tree

Blue jay perched in a tree

How old is the oldest blue jay?

  • The oldest recorded blue jay in the wild lived to be 17 years and 6 months
  • The oldest blue jay in captivity was 26 years and 3 months old

Researchers followed and tracked the wild blue jay throughout its life, which is why they can be so precise with its age. There may have been a wild blue jay that outlived this one, but as the lifespan of a wild blue jay wild is 7 years on average, it is unlikely.

How long can blue jays live without food?

Blue jays can survive about 1-3 days without food in good conditions. In extreme temperatures, though, they will be lucky to survive 12-18 hours. Blue jays, like most birds, must eat a lot per day to keep their strength and fat reserves high.

Blue jays eat mostly seeds and insects in the wild, with the occasional nut. This means that they have to eat a lot to keep their energy levels going. They also need to fly to find food, expelling energy as they do it. So, for blue jays and most birds, the search for food is never really over. This is why they can’t survive very long at all without food.

Blue jay feeding at a bird feeder

Blue jay feeding at a bird feeder

Do blue jays survive winter?

Blue jays are incredibly adaptive and can easily find food even in the worst weather conditions. So, yes, they can survive and even thrive in the winter. At night, they sleep in thick cover in evergreen trees to stay warm. In the day, they will hunt for seeds, nuts, insects and anything they can feed on to survive.

Expert Q + A

Ask a question

Do you have a question about this topic that we haven't answered? Submit it below, and one of our experts will answer as soon as they can.

Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

You may also like

Get the good stuff

Get the latest BirdFacts delivered straight to your inbox

© 2022 - Bird Fact. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.