Why Do Blue Jays Mimic Hawks? Batesian mimicry

Blue Jays Mimicking Hawks

Do you know the bird called Blue Jay? They have beautiful blue feathers and are very intelligent. They can also copy the sounds of other birds, especially hawks.

Scientists and people who love birds have wondered Why Do Blue Jays Mimic Hawks for a long time, but now they have found some answers! In this post, we will learn more about why Blue Jays copy other birds, the good and not-so-good things about it, and why it’s important to keep studying these incredible birds!

blue jays in garden
Blue Jay in garden
Image Source: Photo by Robert Pointer: Pexels.com

Blue Jay is a native North American bird. It comes from the passerine/sparrow bird family, which includes more than half of all bird species. The scientific name/nomenclature of Blue Jay is Cyanocitta cristata.

Explanation of Blue Jay Mimicry Behavior

If you have seen the Blue Jays, you must have heard them chattering. They can make a variety of sounds depending on individual perceptibility. Blue Jays chatter such sounds to mimic the Hawks.

But, you can recognize the most chattered sound, a very loud alarm call.

bluejays corvids
Bluejays belongs to Corvids Famiy

Despite being small (22-30cm), Blue Jays are known for their noisy calls, intelligence, and complex social systems.

It is a slow flier and flies roughly at a speed of (32–40 km/h) when unprovoked. But, such slow flying speeds bring danger in their lives as they become prey to predatory birds.

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Not blue jay, but every other passerine bird may become prey to swift bird hunting specialists like Hawks. Diverse predators, like tree squirrels, snakes, cats, crows, and raccoons, may also prey on their eggs and young ones during the fledging stage.

So to prevent obstacles, they mimic the hawks. They can also copy the cries of local hawks, which may sometimes be difficult to tell. It almost sounds like a gull-like scream.

Why Do Blue Jays Mimic Hawks?

As of now, there is no scientific reason why Blue Jay mimics the Hawk. However, we call tell you that the studies have shown various reasons. This type of mimicry is called Batesian mimicry. It is named after a brilliant 19th-century English naturalist, H.W. Bates, who discovered it.

Blue Jays are amazing birds because they have developed a protective mechanism called Batesian mimicry.

This means that they can mimic the appearance and behaviour of dangerous hawks to scare off potential predators. This clever trick makes predators less likely to attack Blue Jays because they mistake them for dangerous birds.

Specific theories have been circulated about why Blue Jay mimicry the Hawks.

To defend their territory

Blue Jays are like any other animal and bird when defending their territory. They do not allow other animals to come near their territory, especially during the nesting period.

Why Do Blue Jays Mimic Hawks
Blue Jays Mimic Hawks to defend their territory

Although they do not show such behaviour with other Jays, thus, they mimic the sound of hawks to scare off the predator. As predator comes to steal their eggs or even the young hatchlings.

To attract a mate

Blues Jays start their mating season in March and extend it into mid-July. They have a monogamous breeding partner as Blue Jay mates for a lifetime.

So, in search of a partner, unpaired Blue Jays put on a show for other female Jays. They chatter the different sounds, not of Hawk. That does not mean they do not chatter like the Hawks.

How does Blue Jay mimic the Hawks?

Blue Jays are curious and considered intelligent birds. This makes them both very interesting and hard to capture and study.

So, most of the research and breakdown have been gone unpublished. Yet, what we know about their vocalization is something exciting.

Most of you don’t know this, but Blue Jays are songbirds by bloodline and are related to many birds with complex songs.

Meanwhile, Blue Jays do not sing but instead rely on calls to communicate as you can see, they have an immense vocabulary that categorizes their calls.

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It is to be seen that Blue Jays get their entire vocal repertoire within six months from birth.

The exact learning period is yet not determined, although it is probable that they can learn new calls and modify their old ones throughout their lives.

You can see that Blue Jay’s imitations of Red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks are modulations of jeer and pump handle calls.

Jeer calls are used to assemble Jays, for mobbing, and when Jay feels threatened. So, Pumphandle calls are musical and clear and sound like whistles.

So, one form of these calls serves as an alarm for a low-intensity threat.

Benefits of Blue Jay Mimicry

Blue Jays can make mimicry to be like a big scary bird called a hawk. This helps them stay safe from other animals that might want to hurt them.

blue jays eating
Blue Jays feeding nuts

Sometimes, mimicking to be a hawk can also help Blue Jays find a mate because they look strong. They can also use this mimicry to talk to other Blue Jays and tell them when there’s danger around. It’s like having a secret code to keep each other safe!

Drawback of Blue Jay Mimicry

When Blue Jays pretend to be a hawk, it can be helpful for them, but it can also have some problems. Sometimes, real hawks might think the Blue Jay is a threat and try to attack it.

In addition, mimicry can also lead to increased competition for resources. If other birds perceive a Blue Jay to be a hawk, they may be more likely to avoid the area, which could limit the Blue Jay’s access to food and other resources.

Also, if other birds think the Blue Jay is a hawk, they might want to avoid having social interactions.

FAQs About Blue Jay Mimicry

Do all Blue Jays mimic hawks?

No, not all Blue Jays mimic hawks. While this behaviour is common among Blue Jays, not every individual exhibit this behaviour.

Do Jay birds mimic?

Blue Jays skillfully mimic other birds and animals. When threatened, they are likely to imitate the calls of tawny owls, sparrowhawks, and even domestic cats.

Can a blue jay mimic the sound of a hawk?

Blue Jays frequently mimic hawks, especially Red-shouldered Hawks.

Can Blue Jays mimic other bird calls besides hawks?

Yes, Blue Jays can mimic various bird calls, including other songbirds, crows, and even some mammals.

Can Blue Jays mimic human speech?

The Blue Jays can mimic sounds from their environments, including human speech, as they are intelligent birds.

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