Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bizarre Pink Blue Jay

Back in January I heard of an oddly colored Blue Jay that had been frequenting a Unity, NH backyard feeder since early December.  I was shown a poor quality photo of the bird which stirred my curiosity having never seen such an oddity and questioning whether it was in fact an example of erythrism or had been artificially induced, such as dyeing.  I tracked down the homeowner (name withheld at request) to whom's feeder the bird was regularly being seen and who kindly permitted me the opportunity to view and photograph it firsthand. Shortly after my host placed fresh seed out at the feeding stations a group of 15 normal colored Blue Jays arrived and several minutes later the str pink bird flew in. Even though it's visit was brief, I did manage to get several photos including the one posted below.  In all respects the jay is typical except for the pale rosy-red overcast coloring most but not all of its plumage.  Bill, eyes, legs and feet are normally pigmented.

An internet search failed to turn up any similar variants in birds and particularly in jays with exception of a pink Blue Jay photographed in Canada.  That bird generated some discussion on Birdforum in May 2013, but the consensus was the image had been altered significantly or fabricated.  The Unity, NH bird photo posted here is as it appeared and is not a hoax.

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology was contacted to inquire whether any similarly colored jays are known to have been encountered and if so possible causes for the strange pigmentation.  While staff are unaware any such birds, two possible explanations were offered: (1) a genetic factor causing erythrism, or (2) some sort of environmental staining.  One respondent thought that it looks like staining, such as a fluorescent colorant having been applied for a science project.  Thus an actual cause for the pink plumage remains in the realm of speculation and is unlikely to be resolved without having feather samples from the jay to subject to analysis.

Diet-induced erythrism has been observed in other species of birds.  The introduction and spread of nonnative red berry bearing shrubs, e.g. bush honeysuckles Lonicera spp., is suspected of causing unusually red feathering in Baltimore Orioles occurring in southeastern Canada, and reddish House Sparrows reported in Scotland are thought to have been diet induced.



  1. I have seen this pink bluejay with similair markings in oct 2017, from rothesay NB

  2. Today in stoneycreek Ontario I just saw 6 birds flying around. I could not figure out what kind they were they were flying pretty high but they were white with pink tail from underneath and there was one blue bird . I could not believe how beautiful they were. Me and my 2 daughters had to stop riding our bike just to enjoy watching them.