Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bribing the Blue Jays

Until yesterday morning, I had been unable to photograph blue jays in my yard.  They obviously discerned my presence and would only feed once I was indoors.  However, I managed to draw them in yesterday.  I placed bird food along the length of our wooden porch rails rather than the feeders.  Then I sat in my car and waited.  It was cold and cloudy but I persisted with patience.  I watched as other birds came and went- cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees and wrens.  

Finally, the jays came.  I noticed the other birds hurriedly flew into nearby trees upon the jays approach, but within seconds they returned and continued to feed.  I didn't see any aggressive behavior between jays and the smaller birds but I understand why the loud echoing call of the jays might frighten the smaller birds.  The jays didn't hang around for long- they ate hurriedly and stuffed more seeds into their beaks to go.  I've read that blue jays love peanuts...think I'll experiment with that later.  

Blue Jays are familiar to many folks in the south. They're among the most common of large songbirds and one of the most attractive with its perky crest and bright blue, white and black plumage. They are well known for their noisy calls and are excellent mimics with an immense vocabulary. I've watched a few videos of blue jays as they imitated cat meows and human speech. Although blue jays are known to be aggressive, they are less aggressive than some of their neighbors like woodpeckers and mockingbirds. 

Blue Jays communicate with one another both vocally and with “body language,” using their crest. When incubating, feeding nestlings, eating or associating with mate, family, or flock mates, the crest is held down; the lower the crest, the lower the bird’s aggression level. The higher the crest, the higher the bird’s aggression level; when a blue jay squawks, the crest is virtually always held up.

Known for their intelligence and complex social systems, blue jays form tight family bonds. They often mate for life, remaining with their social mate throughout the year.  Blue jays are sometimes known to eat eggs or nestlings, and it is this practice that has tarnished their reputation. In fact, they are largely vegetarian birds. Most of their diet is composed of acorns, nuts, and seeds—though they also eat small creatures such as caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles.

Beautiful birds!

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