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How to Attract Cardinals and Blue Jays to Your Yard

The start of spring has finally arrived in Portland, and between the rainy days, we delight in the chirping birds ushering in beautiful blue-sky days. We visit local parks and hikes to gander upon the lush colors of the many winged creatures in our area and enjoy their singsong tunes.

However, you shouldn’t have to wait until your next visit into nature to enjoy the company of our vibrant feathered friends. Here’s a rundown on how to attract cardinals and blue jays to your yard.

About the Blue Jay

If you spot a blue jay, you might have the luck of the Irish, as this particular bird—while present—is actually quite sparse in our region. While much of the mid- to eastern US states can gander upon a blue jay year-round, we’re not quite as blessed. So if you want to attract this species, you’ll want to add extra steps to your gardening maintenance routine.

Spotting the Blue Jay

How to Attract Cardinals and Blue Jays to Your Yard_blue jay

As the name suggests, blue jays have blue hues on their backs and wings and exhibit white breasts from neck to tail. They also have a prominent black band around their necks, almost like a necklace. The wings also have black and white coloring in elegant lined patterns. Another notable feature is the blue feathers that spike up on their heads when they are alert.

The best part is, if you’re able to spot a blue jay, they often travel in flocks, so more are likely nearby. And if you are in terested in how to attract cardinals and blue jays to your yard, that’s the perfect pairing, as these two are often spotted together, along with chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches.

Attracting the Blue Jay

If you want a blue jay to meander over to your yard, you’ll have the best luck if you’re close to a forested area. That’s where they primarily call home. But other ways to increase your odds are adding either a tray feeder or hopper feeder to your landscape. Blue jays prefer these two options more than the hanging feeders. Here are some additional options.

These birds are also partial to peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, cracker corn, milo, mealworms, fruit, suet, safflower, and acorns.

If you’re feeling inclined to really step up your chances of enjoying blue jays in your space, you could also plant an oak tree. An excellent option is the Oregon white oak. This tree is native to our region, so it’s more likely to adapt well into your setting. And, most importantly, will produce acorns, which are beloved by jays.

Wondering if an Oregon white oak would perform well in your yard. Reach out to your local certified arborists at Mr. Tree to confirm.

About the Cardinal

If someone tells you they spotted a cardinal, you will probably imagine the northern cardinal. This is your typical fully red cardinal, like the one represented by the baseball team.

However, it’s very unlikely that this is the type of cardinal you’ll see anywhere in Oregon. It’s just not native to this region. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t attract cardinals to your yard. In fact, they are other species in the same scientific Cardinalidae family. One such creature is the black-headed grosbeak.

Spotting the Black-Headed Grosbeak

How to Attract Cardinals and Blue Jays to Your Yard_black-headed grosbeak

Also a songbird like the blue jay, the black-headed grosbeak gets its name from its features: it really does have a fully black head that is dramatically set off by its burnt red-orange breast. Its black and white wings add to the notable features of the species.

The females have more subdued coloring and are often less noisy than males. They also sport shorter tails and larger heads, and the orange on their breasts is more muted. The breasts may also have brown or black streaks, and the bill may be bi-colored. Listen for their tune while gazing for their striking features. This is what they sound like.

Both males and females are about the size of a robin but leaner in stature.

Attracting the Black-Headed Grosbeak

If you’re still interested in how to attract cardinals and blue jays to your yard, then your best bet is to aim for drawing in the black-headed grosbeak species of the cardinal. Like the blue jay, it also prefers sunflower seeds. They may also be interested in a nectar feature you’ve set out for orioles, or simply resting in shady spots in your garden, especially if a water source is nearby. You are in a particularly inviting setting for this cardinal if your home is along a river or near the open oak woods.

Other birds in the cardinal family that you may want to draw into your yard include the lazuli bunting and western tanager.

One More Option

While least likely, if you really want to learn how to attract cardinals and blue jays to your yard, might we suggest advocating for a major league baseball team in Portland? This is a long-game, as it will take years before we can expect to see cardinals, blue jays, orioles, or really any team grace our backyard, but taking small steps today might just bring a brand-new family of cardinals in our region.

It’s always a challenge attracting particular birds into your yard, but these steps will help you to create an inviting environment to lure in your favorite natural springtime tune. And the worst-case scenario is that you might draw in species more dynamic than you expected.

Looking for where to pick up a bird feeder from a local shop? Might we suggest the Backyard Bird Shop located in both Portland and Beaverton? They are also a great resource if you’re looking for tips on attracting any sort of wildlife onto your property.

Want to try something a little different? Create nesting boxes to draw in our native birds. Visit our website to learn how.