I have long been fascinated with trying to tell one individual bird of the same species from another. When it comes to some species, the only way this is possible is when one bird has an unusual feather (e.g. color, feather, injury) that distinguishes it from others of its species. In other cases, birds of the same species may exhibit slight variations in their basic color patterns. For example, a few weeks ago I posted a blog that discussed a technique that allows an observer to identify one male rose-breasted grosbeak from another by the subtle differences in their red chevrons. A similar technique allows you to tell one blue jay from another.
The blue jay is undoubtedly one of our most easily recognized birds. All blue jays seem to appear exactly alike. However, if you take the time to study the black necklace-like pattern displayed across the bird’s throat, face, and nape, it becomes apparent that this pattern varies widely between blue jays. In fact, once you begin focusing on this feature, you will wonder why you never noticed these differences throughout the many years that you have been watching the comings and goings of blue jays in your backyard.
A quick way for you to appreciate this fact is to pull up a collection of blue jay photos on your computer. If you do, in a matter of seconds, it becomes apparent that each blue jay has its own unique black necklace.
If you photograph the blue jays visiting your birdbath and feeder, don’t be surprised if you discover you are hosting more blue jays than you ever realized.