Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Rattle Call: A dry. high rattle, starting rapidly and gradually slowing. Appears to be given exclusively by females, usually during social displays (Tarvin 1999).
Blue Jay, rattle call, April 14, 2012, Lion's Den Gorge, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
Mimicry: The Blue Jay is a well known mimic and seems to specialize in imitating the calls of raptors.
Many different explanations for this behavior have been offered, but its purpose or function remains a mystery.
Many observers have reported seeing Blue Jays give a hawk imitation at a crowded feeder and seemingly wait for the other birds to clear out before coming in to feed.
The list of raptor species that the blue jay has been reported to mimic is long and includes Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk (Graves, 2005), Osprey, Cooper's Hawk, Eastern Screech-Owl and American Kestrel (Tarvin 1999).
In addition to raptors, the Blue Jay will at times imitate crows, cats, people and various other sounds (Tarvin 1999).
Blue Jay, mimicking a Red-tailed Hawk, February 7, 2010, Kettle Moraine State Park, South Unit, Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
Blue Jay, mimicking a Red-shouldered Hawk, May 1, 2010, Kettle Moraine State Park, South Unit, Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
Graves, Gary R. 2005. Vocal Mimicry of Broad-winged Hawk by Blue Jay. Banisteria, Number 25.
Tarvin, Keith A. and Glen E. Woolfenden. 1999. Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/469 doi:10.2173/bna.469