Blue Jays, I do not like them

I like watching birds at my feeder. A wide variety of my Pineywoods feathered friends visit often, changing as do the seasons. My visitors include chickadees, titmice, sparrows, cardinals, doves, finches, red winged blackbirds, and the occasional woodpecker. Wait. What? I want more of those Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) dropping in for a bite. I know, I will put up a suet made to attract “woodpeckers” to my feeder. Alas, no woodpeckers, but one, then two, then six Blue Jays become regular customers.

blue jay flight

The Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) is as beautiful to me as the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Strikingly blue above and a light gray below with black and white wing stripes, this bird captures the eye most pleasingly. I especially like the blue/black striped tail, black necklace, and the spiked head crest.

Smaller than a robin, but larger than a crow, blue jays regularly visit the suet feeder. One cannot distinguish between male or female as the plumage is the same, however, males are typically larger. The lugs occasionally hang awkwardly from the seed feeder, grabbing a sunflower seed, then flying up to a nearby limb, holding the seed with its feet, and cracking it open with its bill. Being an omnivorous creature, it also feeds on insects, mice and frogs, although I do not keep those in my feeder.

DSC00717As two or more congregate around the feeder or the bird bath, I will point them out to my wife who exclaims, “I do not like them”. She says that they are aggressively mean to other birds. Well, perhaps, but no more so than any other bird of its size. The gregarious antics of their social behavior entertains me with each visit. I particularly enjoy the myriad of “jaybird” calls from its rough jay-jay to its wee-wooo whistle.

One finds the Blue Jay from southern Canada down to Florida and over to the Pineywoods of northeastern Texas. The species is not particularly migratory except for the subspecies C. c. bromia of northern Ontario which drifts in flocks of up to 200 as far south as Michigan. And, actually, studies reveal that only happens every other year. It all depends upon weather and food sources. For the most part one finds that local blue jays are just that.

The nest of the open cup design is built in tree branches of sticks and straw by both male and female. The eggs, two to seven per clutch, are a pale bluish with brown spots. Should you ever see one, you will be in awe of nature’s beauty. As an altricial species, the young are wholly dependent upon the adults for survival. Within one to two months, the brood is ready to leave the nest.

Blue jays have an interesting social system. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The main elements include the following: (1) the basic social unit is a monogamous pair, which remains in the same limited area throughout the year; (2) pairs do not defend territories in any classical sense, but defend the nest site from individuals that come too close; (3) they do not breed cooperatively, but conduct group social displays and mob predators and intruders, perhaps as members of a loosely organized neighborhood flock.” (https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/blujay/introduction)

So, the next time you see, or more likely hear first, a blue jay, take a moment to look. Take in its colorful beauty. Watch its chattering antics. Listen to its shrill call. Appreciate the beauty of nature.

BTW: October Big Day is coming up. You can be a citizen scientist by identifying the birds you see. For details, go here.

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