Blue Jays

Blue Jay, juvenile

Blue Jay, juvenile

Sometimes Blue Jays are considered the bullies of the backyard birdfeeder. They’ll many times approach the feeders trumpeting their alarm call and scattering little birds as they go.

Blue Jays, Cyanocitta cristata, are famous for mobbing Owls and Hawks and usually if they are making a lot of noise there is one of those predator birds in the vicinity. But there’s also a devious side to this bird, they will intentionally scream their alarm call to clear the other birds away from the feeder, even if there is no predator around. Blue Jays are also somewhat of a mimic. They can imitate a Broad-winged Hawk’s call perfectly.

Then there’s the “piggy” part. The pouch that Blue Jays have in their throat allows them to cache food. They’ll wolf down birdseed by the beakful and then they will carry the food back into the woods where they cough it up and deposit it into a hollow log, or something similar. Later they will return to the hidden stockpile and eat. But what if they don’t remember where it is? Blue Jays are members of the Corvidae family along with Crows and Ravens, and this family of birds is well-known for their intelligent ways. So it’s probably fairly likely that the Blue Jay does remember – and if they don’t, it’s just some added bounty for other little critters, or even other birds, that roam the woods in search of a meal. It’s true that this bird is a bully and a glutton, but they are a beautiful bird to behold.

The Corvidae family, which includes the Blue Jay, has been negatively affected by the West Nile virus. Crows have been particularly hard hit and their populations have dropped. Many people down south comment on the lack of Crows. Hmmm, that means that the Blue Jay population should have dropped too, but you wouldn’t know it by my backyard feeders. This fall I have a pack of 10 birds perusing the backyard and causing a ruckus. I’m sure that in past winter seasons the Blue Jay numbers were not what they are today, particularly up north here. I think with the advent of, and popularity, of bird feeding this has kept the Blue Jay here in the winter and perhaps has even helped their numbers by making the population stronger and healthier.

Alas, in the summer when you see a Blue Jay rob the nest of a Red-eyed Vireo you tend to hate the bird. It’s hard sometimes to see nature at work, but in the wild there is a reason for everything that happens, even if it appears cruel at times.

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