Northern Cardinal VS Blue Jay: Complete Difference Explained

Northern Cardinal VS Blue Jay

The similarly sized bodies of the Northern cardinal and the blue jay along with their similar posture and stance might have you wondering if these birds are related. However, the only relation these birds share is that they are songbirds and not much else. 

The Northern cardinal is from the cardinal family while the blue jay is from the crow family. 

This is only just the beginning of the differences between them though. So today, we are going to take an in-depth deep dive into all of the differences between a Northern cardinal and a blue jay.

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Complete Differences Overview

BasisNorthern CardinalBlue Jay
AppearanceMales: vibrant red all over, with a black face around the bill.Females: Pale brown all over with reddish tinges.Bright blue jay on top with a white-gray on the throat and chest. Males and females are very similar.
Weight1.2 – 2.3 ounces2.5 – 3.5 ounces
Length8.3 – 9.3 inches9 – 12 inches
Mostly Found In AreasWoodlands, thickets, deciduous forests, and even dense bushes in residential areas.Breeds in deciduous woods, mostly found in okay and pine woods, and beech trees.
Voice/SpeechLoud string of two-part whistles, speeding up and ending in a slow trill.Called ‘whisper song’, a soft combination of clicks, whines, and other notes.
DietMostly seeds, insects, and berries. Majority of their diet is vegetable matter along with insects like grasshopper, caterpillar, and so on.Mostly consume vegetarian things like acorns, beechnuts, seeds, grains, berries, small fruits, as well as insects.
MigrationPermanent resident throughout its range.Present all year round, though some birds make large southward migrations.

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Appearance

Maybe the most apparent difference between them is in their appearance, as the northern cardinal is a brilliant red all over and the blue jay, as their name suggests, sports a blue color. 

The male northern cardinal is a long-tailed songbird with a very short, thick bill, around which they have a concentrated black-colored mask, as well as a black throat.

Females are also similarly structured, but sport a more neutral pale brown shade all over, with warm reddish twinges on their wings, tail, and crest.

Blue jays, on the other hand, have a distinct blue tint on the upper part of their bodies with a whitish gray on the lower half. 

They also have a distinct white wingbar, along with white tail ends that show their beauty during flight. 

With a prominent crest and a bold black necklace, this bird is a sure stunner. The females look almost identical, with the only difference being a slight size difference.

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Juveniles

In northern cardinals, both male and female juveniles look similar to an adult female, with a pale brown coloring and similar twinges of warm red in certain areas.

They have a much duller bill than both male and female adults though, that is a little more grayish.

In blue jays, the juveniles look pretty similar to the adults except that they look bit rougher and duller. 

As opposed to the sleek and elegant appearance of the adults in the family, the juveniles look much less put together.

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Speech and Sounds

In northern cardinals, both the male and female sing. Their song is a distinct and clear string of two-parted whistles, that often speed up in the middle and end in a slow trill.

Their song consists of a mixture of different syllables and can sound a little like the bird is saying cheer-cheer-cheer or birdie-birdie-birdie! 

Though scientists have identified up to 16 different calls for them, the most common one you will hear is their warning call, a sharp metallic chip.

The blue jays, on the other hand, have a softer combination of notes referred to as “whisper song”. It consists of a combination of clicks, chucks, whirs, whines, and so on. Blue jays are famous for their incredible mimicry, being able to imitate predators like the Red-shouldered Hawks perfectly!

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Diet

Northern cardinals feed mostly on vegetarian matters like seeds, weeds, waste grains, flowers, berries, and wild fruits. 

But they are actually omnivorous and also love a healthy serving of a variety of insects like grasshoppers, caterpillars, tree bugs, ants, and so on.

Blue jays also love their primarily vegetative diet consisting of acorns, beechnuts, seeds, grains, wild berries and fruit, weeds, leaf buds, and so on. 

They also love the occasional serving of insects like leafhoppers, caterpillars, beetles, snails, frogs, and sometimes even small rodents!

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Habitat

Northern cardinals mainly inhabit dense thickets, woodland edges, and other dense brushy areas. 

They can also be found in residential areas like suburban gardens and backyards.

It is mainly found throughout such habitats in the American continent from southeastern Canada to the eastern United States.

Blue jays also inhabit similar deciduous, thick-wooded areas like oak and pine woods and groves and even residential areas like suburban gardens. 

It does not enjoy the density in forests like cardinals do, and prefers mixed woodlands with oaks and beeches.

It can be observed from Southern Canada all the way through the eastern and central United States.

Northern Cardinal vs Blue Jay: Who Would Win In A Fight?

Both Northern cardinals, as well as blue jays, are increasingly territorial, driving away even the faintest hint of threat with their loud calls. 

When you put them head to head, the blue jays, which are almost twice the size of northern cardinals, might seem like the clear winner. 

In fact, blue jays are infamous bird feeder monopolizers, driving away many birds including Northern cardinals.

But cardinals are not defenseless though! They are so territorial that they even attack their own reflections in the glass, mistaking it for an enemy bird! 

While this is a sign of its sense of territory, this also shows their lesser intelligence as compared to blue jays, who are incredibly smart and are master manipulators. 

Blue jays are actually social and sweet-hearted birds but will quickly turn shades if what they want is blocked from them. Thus, if this fight between these two birds is happening at a bird feeder, the clear winner is the blue jay.

In Conclusion,

So that was all you need to know about how these adorable little crested birds differ from one another. 

They are both smart songbirds, who can be recognized by their vibrant shades and differentiated using our guide above! 

We hope you had a fun journey traversing their fun little worlds today and more importantly, that you learned something new!

Thank you for reading!

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