Blue Jay vs Cardinal: 20 Similarities & Differences

Blue Jay vs Cardinal, which one is more beautiful?

If you are a bird lover, then it is a very tough question to answer. Both of them are very beautiful and charming. One can make a lot of comparisons but cannot give an acute verdict. But why bother about that? Your life is not depending on that answer.

However, there are many similarities and differences between Blue Jays and Cardinals that will interest you. We can ignore which is more beautiful, but now, let’s find out the similarities and differences between the two of the most beautiful birds.

Blue Jay Vs Cardinal: The Differences

Birds are special creatures of nature. They add color and innocence, and you can take a break from the hasty life and enjoy your leisure watching them.

Every bird species is different in its own way. One species has many contrasting features to another. The same goes for the Blue Jays and Cardinals.

So, here are fifteen differences between Blue Jays and the Cardinals:

1. Physical Appearance

There is no denying that both birds are beautiful in their own way. However, you will never mistake a Blue Jay for a Cardinal or the reverse. They have quite a distinct appearance. While Blue Jay has blue and white plumage with black markings on the tail and wings, Cardinals usually have red plumage with a black mask on the face.

Blue Jay
Blue Jay
Cardinal
Cardinal

There are some other variants of cardinals, such as Yellow cardinals, and females are pale brown with warm reddish traces in the wings, tail, and crest. So, the cardinals have more color in them than Blue Jays.

2. Size

Both Blue Jay and Cardinals are small birds. However, if you want to make a comparison between the two, then Blue Jay is a bit bigger than the cardinals. Cardinals are about seven to nine inches in size, while Blue Jay averages a length of nine to twelve inches.

As the cardinals are shorter in size, their wingspan is also shorter than Blue Jay. Blue Jay has a wingspan of 13 to 17 inches. On the other hand, cardinals’ wingspan varies from nine to twelve inches.

3. Diet

The size comparison between Blue Jay and Cardinals did not reveal many differences between them, right? But when it comes to diet, they have totally different habits. Blue Jay is an omnivorous bird. Their diet includes insects, seeds, nuts, and fruits.

In contrast, cardinals are very limited in selecting their diet habits. They are mostly seed eaters. Nonetheless, they do not restrain themselves from hunting insects and eating fruits entirely.

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4. Vocalizations

When it comes to making a comparison between birds, then their vocalization is one of the primary aspects to discuss. Both Blue Jay and cardinals are singing birds. They can make beautiful sounds that will erase the tiredness of a business day.

Blue Jay has a rather loud voice with a distinctive “jay-jay” call. Cardinals, on the other hand, have a sweet, clear whistle and various other songs. Their call is described as “cheer, cheer, cheer.”

So, which one is better? It depends on the owner of the ear, of course. If you enjoy the loud singing of birds, then Blue Jay is our bird. However, if you enjoy sweet and clear whistling, then cardinals are the ones you must look for.

5. Geographic Range    

Blue jays are commonly seen in eastern and central North America. And cardinals are spotted in abundance in eastern and southeastern North America. So, if you want to see them both in one place, then eastern America will be the perfect place for you.

The geographical difference is primarily based on their ability to adapt to their surroundings. As omnivores, Blue jays can find different types of food easily in North America, which motivates them to live there. The same goes for the cardinals.

6. Nesting Habits

Building nests is an art. Watching birds preparing their nests is a wonderful experience. They make it with care and leave an artistic touch. Both cardinals and Blue Jay make their nests, but they make them differently than each other.

Cardinals build their nests in dense shrubs or trees, often in a fork of branches or on a horizontal limb. They use twigs, leaves, and grasses, along with softer materials such as feathers, rootlets, and animal hair. The nests are small cup-sized homes for the birds.

Blue Jay, on the other hand, builds cup-shaped nests in trees and shrubs. They use twigs, roots, and grasses and are often lined with soft materials such as animal fur, feathers, or moss. Their nests are larger than cardinals’.

7. Sexual Dimorphism

If you are not an expert, then you may find little difficulty in distinguishing between male and female blue jays. Both male and female blue jays have blue and white feathers. However, males tend to have brighter and more vivid blue plumage than females. Males also tend to have slightly darker black necklaces or collars around their necks. Besides, the male blue jay is bigger in size than the female ones.

You will find it much easier to distinguish between male and female cardinals. Male cardinals are of bright red color, while the females are pale brownish-red. In addition, male cardinals have a black “mask” around their eyes and on their faces, while females have a grayish-black mask.

8. Social Behavior

Blue Jays are very friendly and social birds. They love to form small groups and wander together. Cardinals, in contrast, usually move in pairs instead of forming larger groups.

9. Vocal Mimicry 

Both cardinals and blue jay are beautiful singing birds. But blue jay has one more talent over the cardinals. Blue Jay can mimic the sounds of hawks, and even human speech, which proves their intelligence. Cardinals do not have this ability to mimic others.

10. Using Tools

Cardinals are beautiful birds, but when it comes to the question of intelligence, they are like ordinary birds. There is nothing special about them. But blue jays are more intelligent. They can also use some tools to do their work. They have a better IQ, for which they are often noticed to behave in a superior manner to other birds.

11. Nest Predation

Blue Jay has a reputation for raiding others’ nests. They will raid or attack other nests for food mostly. It becomes a regular habit for them during the breeding season when they need more food. Well, it is their adaptation to the increased demand for food. Cardinals are not known for showing such behavior.

12. Physical Features

Blue Jay has a crest on their head that they can raise or lower. They use this crest for communication and to attract female birds. On the other hand, what makes cardinals unique is their cone-shaped bill. The shape of the bill allows cardinals to easily crack open seeds and nuts.

13. Migration

If you have blue jay birds in your locality, then you must have noticed that they do not disappear suddenly. You can find them year-round. It is because they do not migrate. They are permanent residents of their locality.

Cardinals are a different case, though. They migrate to the southern United States during the winter to find more comfortable weather.

14. Territorial Behavior

Blue Jay shows territorial behavior and gets aggressive if you get too close, especially during the breeding season. Cardinals also demonstrate territorial behavior but are not aggressive.

Blue Jay vs Cardinals: Similarities

As you have noticed that there are a good number of differences between the two species, but that does not mean that there are no similarities between the two. If you observe closely, you will notice several similarities among them. Let’s find out now.

1. Geographic Range

Both cardinals and blue jays are seen in abundance in eastern North America. It means you are lucky and can see both these beautiful creatures in your locality if you are from North America.

2. Distinctive Colors

Yes, both birds have different colors. But their colors are distinctive. One is bright red, and the other is bright blue and white. Because of their bright colors, they are easy to spot and identify.

3. Diet

Both of their diets include insects and fruits, in addition to seeds. Though blue jays are omnivores and eat many other things, they have some similarities in their menu list.

4. Backyard Birds

Both cardinals and blue jays make their nests near forests. But you do not need to look for them in forests. They have the habit of visiting backyards and will come to yours as well, especially if you feed them.

5. Nesting Habits 

Both of them have nesting birds and make their nests in trees and shrubs. Though the cardinals make smaller nests, their nests are almost identical.

6. Monogamous Breeding

You can use both of them as metaphors for love. They are both monogamous and only take one mate during the breeding season. During this time, they work together to build a nest, incubate eggs, and raise their young.

Conclusion

People raise comparisons like Blue Jay vs Cardinals because they love both of them and cannot decide which one is more beautiful and has more importance in nature. While they have many differences between them, the similarities are also vivid.