Beautiful Blue Jays


2009-07-07

Blue jays are among the most intelligent, colourful and brazen birds to visit our backyards. At nearly a foot long, blue jays are noticeably larger than most backyard birds. Males and females look identical and are strikingly beautiful.

Members of the crow family, blue jays are very adept at learning how to exploit whatever food supplies are present. Once considered a bird of remote woodlands, the blue jay can now be seen in most backyards of southern Canada. They typically prefer living within or adjacent to oak forest habitat, and acorns may be their number one main course, especially in winter, jays have the habit of burying nuts and acorns for later retrieval. Many are never found, the result being that jays contribute to planting forests for future generations.

Jays are often the first birds in the forest to give the alarm when a predator is near, their voices causing many other species to join them in mobbing the intruder and chasing it from the area. On the other hand, when preying on the eggs of other species, they are often the subject of the mobbing efforts of birds that only minutes before might have been allies in driving away a larger predator.

The blue jay’s loud calls are the reason for its noisy reputation. Although many backyard birders feel it scares away other birds, this call also warns of nearby predators such as hawks or owls. Blue jays are known to mimic calls of other birds such as the American kestrel and red-tailed hawk. This may be a clever way to clear the feeder of other birds but there is no proof to that effect.

Blue jays are known to be aggressive at feeders. Providing more feeders (especially ones with more space) will allow jays to feed peacefully with other birds. Vary the styles of feeders as well. Tube feeders are less attractive to a large jay, allowing smaller birds to feed without disruption.

Because their bills can crack open almost anything, you will see blue jays eating all kinds of food. Most jays love peanuts as well as acorns, beechnuts, beef suet and sunflower seeds. They will frequently take one seed at a time and fly to another perch where they pin down the seed with their feet and hammer it with their bill to crack the shell. This is similar to the way black-capped chickadees eat seeds otherwise too hard for them to crack. You can also see jays flying off with extra portions to store for the winter.

Whether you think jays are bad or beneficial, our world is better for their help in maintaining forests and forest diversity. Our world is brighter for their colour and for their voice.

Stop in to Featherfields for tips on how to attract these beauties to your garden. We have a variety of birdfeeders and seed blends that are very attractive to blue jays, and of course, to many other backyard birds as well.

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