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Submitted By

Josh Bell

Londonderry, NH, United States

Description

This Blue Jay appeared at my feeding station this past summer for a period of 3 days. It appeared to be very sluggish and “not with it.” It would sit still for hours in one of my hanging platform feeders and go back and forth between dozing off and pecking occasionally at the seed inside. It would also exhibit the same behavior on the ground. On the last day that it was at my feeding station it allowed me to walk so close to it that I could’ve picked it up. At that point I knew something was wrong. It’s eyes were opening and closing and it had this abnormal lump on it’s upper back. I never saw it again after that day.

Category

Sick behavior

Species

A Sick Blue Jay

Sick Blue Jay

31 replies on “A Sick Blue Jay”

Ken says:

Blue jay sitting around in yard, appears ok. But I usually see them fly away when I open the door, this one doesn’t. It can fly and it hops around when you get close. It will also eat some of the sweat cake. Leaves then comes back.

Hampstead NH

christine murphy says:

Did you ever figure out what this way because i have my second blue jay exactly this way. The first one died. I wonder if its an illness or did they fly into a window and are injured. Its so sad to see and not sure what to do

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Christine, Anytime you see a sick bird, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here. Please also note that it is against federal law to handle to treat wild birds without a federal permit. If you’re particularly worried about an individual, the best thing to do is to call a local wildlife rehabilitator before taking action. If you’re not sure who that is, your state’s wildlife office should have a list of rehabilitators that are federally certified.

christine says:

Thank you for all the great info Holly!

Vanessa E Richter says:

I discovered Bluejay at my house this morning with those exact same symptoms; did you find out what it was and how you treat it?

Thank you

Holly Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hi Vanessa, Anytime you see a sick bird, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here. Please also note that it is against federal law to handle to treat wild birds without a federal permit. If you’re particularly worried about an individual, the best thing to do is to call a local wildlife rehabilitator before taking action. If you’re not sure who that is, your state’s wildlife office should have a list of rehabilitators that are federally certified.

Ron Foster says:

A number of blue jays visit our feeder and suet block. Approximately a month ago noticed one of them was almost constantly “fluttering” its wings when on the ground or feeder. This morning, three of them were exhibiting this behavior. Is this normal or is there a problem of some kind? Thank you for any information you might have.

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Ron, if that is the only behavior they are exhibiting, it seems unlikely to be related to a disease (in such a case, you would also likely notice lethargy, erratic flying, or other symptoms). Fluttering of wings could be juvenile birds still getting used to their wings, they could be sunbathing, or perhaps engaging in a behavior that some birds exhibit, called “anting” where the bird rubs ants on their feathers or skin. The purpose of anting is still a bit uncertain, though it’s likely to help with removing pests or mites that live in their feathers. In any case, if you think the birds could be sick, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to help prevent the spread of disease at your feeders.

Ava Johnson says:

If it is squawking while fluttering its wings, fluttering them while near an adult, or following another bird while fluttering its wings, it might be a juvenile asking for food.

Ava says:

Another thing, adult birds will sometimes flutter their wings when wanting to breed. But since you saw three birds doing this, it’s probably just some juveniles begging for food.

Larry Corona says:

i had a blue juvenile blue jay just sitting on the edge of my birdbath dozing in and out very sluggish. it popped 3 times so up until this point all ok. it was on the ground a little while later and was able to pet it. well it died the following morning. im a biker from nj and i guess I’m soft because i was so bummed. i put it in a cigar box with a piece of bread that he ate and used it as a pillow. i also gave my friend a peanut, put it with tissue paper and buried it down back with a cross. RIP my feather friend

Gisela Wicher says:

Noticed one of my regular blue jays with 2 dangling large feathers touching the ground. He seems to be able to fly just enough to a close bush. He eats a little off the porch. Not sure if he is sick and injured or just molding.
Its so sad not to be able to catch him and maybe get help.

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Gisela, In late summer and fall many species are molting, including Blue Jays. If your bird can fly, walk, and eat well on its own, there’s no reason to intervene. New feathers will grow back in within a few weeks. We do not recommend attempting to catch any wild bird unless you’re doing so under the direction of a certified wildlife rehabilitator or wildlife vet.

Kimberly M Baldwin says:

I have one that looks young and he has been here for hours. I tried catching him but he keeps moving but allows me to get very close. This is upsetting and I don’t know what to do. .it also looks like there is alot of tears around eyes

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Kimberly, thank you for reaching out. If you see a bird that appears to be compromised in some way, perhaps due to sickness or injury, do not try to care for the bird yourself. It is illegal for you to possess most wild birds unless you are under the direction of someone licensed for their care. Only veterinarians or federally licensed wildlife rehabilitators can legally treat wild birds. It is best to leave the bird, or call your local wildlife rehabilitator.

Craig Fawcett says:

I have a very bloated blue Jay who appeared yesterday at my feeder. He sat there for an hour. Today he was on the ground below the feeder and let my kids walk right past. Now he is staying on a support post under my eaves and not moving. He looks very bloated. We have a good population of blue Jay’s that visit our peanut ring daily, along with many other species. I would hate for it to be a disease spreading center, should I be concerned?

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Craig, Any time you see a bird that you suspect is sick, like this lethargic individual you describe, it’s best to take your feeders down and clean them. Leave them down for a few days to let the sick birds disperse. Even if you don’t see any sick birds, we recommend cleaning feeders every 1-2 weeks to help prevent the transmission of any disease at your feeders. You can learn more here. I also recommend reaching out to a local wildlife rehabilitator, who may have further advice for you.

Trish Webb says:

We also have a very bloated-looking and sluggish blue jay who sits for unusually long stretches at the 6′ X 3″ bird seed trough off our front deck. He was perched, virtually immobile, on the boxwood bushes below the deck this morning. He is able to fly a short distance to an oak tree. This is day # 2 or 3. The trough is for birdseed – it is mahogany and kept very clean, with only a smattering of seed. We actually kept it seed-free for many days after seeing another sluggish blue jay, and the remnants (neighbor cat) of two blue jays about 2-3 weeks ago. All other birds seem fine. Though I added fresh seed to the long trough 3 days ago, the other feeder has been taken down. We are sick about this. I notified MA Fish & Wildlife and Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton, MA.

Lisa Wilson says:

Trish, did you ever find out about the Bluejays? This is a year old post but I’m having the same issues with Bluejays. All the same symptoms as mentioned here. I’m from central MA. They sprayed for mosquitoes this entire month. I’ve heard Jays and Crows are mist effected by West Nile Virus, I’m wondering if the spray could be making them sick???

Lin says:

FYI I have a blue jay exhibiting all symptoms everyone else mentioned. Hanging around bird feeder all day on ground and not flying away from me. I was told either West Nile virus or from fertilizer. Not much can be done and was instructed to keep it warm and in a dark spot with food/water. Hopefully this one makes it.

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

HI Lin, Anytime you see a sick bird, or one exhibiting such symptoms, it’s best to take your feeders down for a few days and clean them. Cleaning them regularly (every 1-2 weeks) is the best way to prevent disease, even when you see no sick birds. You can learn more about bird diseases and how best to clean your feeders here. We do not recommend capturing nor treating wild birds unless you are under the direction of a certified wildlife rehabilitator, or someone who is otherwise possessing the necessary federal permits.

Nick Zmuda says:

Last few days I noticed a Blue Jay with the same symptoms sitting on the railing of my deck here in New Jersey, where I put out peanuts for Jays & Woodpeckers. He would sit there with his head tilted to the side, wings hanging over the railings like he was pooped. Then after a while he would pop-up, grab a peanut and fly away. He looked a bit bloated and scruffy. Any ideas of what is causing this ??

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Nick, thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately there is no way to tell for sure what is happening with the Blue Jay. If you suspect the Blue Jay is sick, we recommend removing the feeders the bird is using for a few weeks to allow the bird a chance to disperse. While the feeders are down, clean them thoroughly using a diluted bleach solution. For more info, please visit our page on Sick Birds and Bird Diseases.

Sue says:

Would really like to know what this “disease”? is. Have a similar jay in Allentown, PA. It is a sitting duck for a hawk or fox. I feel so bad. If anyone know what causes this please let me know. Thank you.

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Sue, thanks for reaching out. It is impossible to say for sure why this Blue Jay is ill, without examination by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or veterinarian. If you see a bird that appears to be compromised in some way, perhaps due to sickness or injury, do not try to care for the bird yourself. It is illegal for you to possess most wild birds unless you are under the direction of someone licensed for their care. Please feel free to check out the Sick Birds and Bird Diseases section of our website for more info.

Jillian says:

Worth mentioning that while a bird can’t be visually diagnosed, H5N1 avian flu is having a large outbreak in the eastern US (2021-2022+) and has been infecting blue jays and crows. Symptom lists for avian flu commonly include head and neck swelling and lethargic behavior/eventual death.

Bob says:

I routinely feed my blue jays peanuts all year long. For a couple days now, we have one who seems really dopey, flys okay, but hangs for long periods of time near the peanuts and or the water bowl that we keep out. He drank at least 10 beakfuls earlier, and has eaten a bit. When we open the door, he sits there on our porch deck looking at us, and doesn’t make a move to fly away. At first I thought he was a baby, but now I guess he’s sick after reading all these posts.

Bob says:

I forgot to add that I live in Woodbridge Township, NJ.

Mary says:

I also would like to know what the disease is. I have written to NJ Audubon to see if they can shed on light on the situation. I am in Central New Jersey

Karen says:

I am on the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and notice in the past two weeks that l have not seen a single blue jay, where l was seeing several a day consistently before that. This is extremely concerning as l thought Blue Jays stay all winter in this region. Are there reports of total annihilation due to avian flu or West Nile? (Nov 7, 2022)

Heidi Faulkner, Project Assistant says:

Hello Karen, thank you for reaching out. We frequently receive inquiries about an increase or decline in bird populations. Bird populations normally fluctuate from one season to the next and from one year to the next. Researchers have determined that the number of birds in North America has declined by nearly 30% in the last 50 years (read article from Autumn 2019 Living Bird), but for feeder birds, which are doing better overall than non-feeder birds, the declines have been gradual. If you are seeing a sudden, dramatic drop in bird numbers, most likely the cause is either local or seasonal. Although it’s impossible for us to know the cause of each specific increase and decline, there are several common causes for bird population fluctuations.

• The most common cause for a dramatic drop in all bird species at a feeder is the arrival of a predator, such as a hawk (often impossible to see) or a cat.

• Habitat changes frequently affect bird numbers. If there has been any change in your neighborhood–such as trees being cut down, new houses being built, or different crops being planted on nearby fields–that could be the reason you are seeing more or less birds.

• Natural food supplies–such as pinecones, berries, seeds, and insects–fluctuate from year to year, causing birds to shift ranges to take advantage of food surpluses or to compensate for food shortages.

• Weather fluctuations often cause birds to shift ranges, especially in winter.

To see what other participants are reporting in your region this year or to compare to past seasons, visit the Explore section of our web site and check the State Summaries.

I know it can be frustrating to watch your feeders when no birds come, but that data is critical. The only way we will know if there are any significant declines in bird populations is if people seeing few or no birds keep sending counts, so please keep counting and submitting data.

Let us know if you have any other questions.

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