Finally…

Gray Jay

Gray Jay

a pair of Gray Jays have discovered the deer rib cage that I hung out for them earlier this winter.

Gray Jay

Gray Jay

The 2 birds were just frantic in their exuberance in finding the new source of food. One Gray Jay was up on the rib cage pecking at the suet, while the other Jay was on the ground gathering up any scraps that had fallen.

Earlier this winter I had lamented that I didn’t have a deer carcass to hang for the birds. Then a neighbor called me to say they had an extra rib cage that I could have. I jumped at the chance to get a deer carcass! It was super cold when I got the rib cage and it was frozen solid. I conned my husband into hanging in a tree in the backyard, he wasn’t too thrilled about it. But it’s a great way to see wildlife! It will attract many different species of bird and animal. Pine Martens are particularly fond of deer suet and so are many birds, especially Gray Jays and Boreal Chickadees. In fact, Boreal Chickadees don’t eat sunflower seeds like their cousins the Black-capped Chickadee. You can attract Boreal Chickadees with a deer rib cage if you are in the right place up north in Minnesota. At first only the regular yard birds, like the Blue Jays and Black-capped Chickadees, were pecking at the rib cage, maybe because it was so frozen and “unscented”. But now with the temperatures warming up, the rib cage has attracted what I wanted to find!

Gray Jays are really extraordinary birds, they start nesting now! I have seen young Gray Jays right out of the nest as early as May 7th. So that means those parent Gray Jays had to start nesting really early while it’s still winter. When you think that it takes at least 20-30 days to incubate eggs and then possibly another 20 days for a nestling to grow enough to leave the nest, they have to start laying eggs at least by March 20th.

When they first discovered the new food source, it seemed they were just so excited about it. They were gulping suet and scraps and storing it in their crops before flying off to some secret hiding place to “cache” their store. You see, Gray Jays store food all winter for the spring time when they’re raising young birds. There aren’t too many food sources in April and May for the young birds – there certainly aren’t any bugs out yet! Gray Jays have to rely on their stored food for that reason.

Now, when just one bird starts showing up, maybe it will signal that the other bird in the pair is sitting on eggs. It would be really cool to find an active nest. I understand that it is next to impossible – Gray Jays are very secretive and they’re smart! They hide their nests in very remote places and they might even lead you somewhere away from their nest if they know you’re trying to track them.

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