Friday, October 30, 2009

Beautiful Blue Jays

My backyard, once brimming with an assortment of colourful and often amusing critters, is a little quieter now; many of my feathered friends have migrated to warmer regions (smart animals). The squirrels are still here, obviously. The squirrels are always here – year round. “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the squirrels from invading the bird feeders, destroying the garden, chewing holes in garbage can lids and basically running the show.” You think you’re in charge. Silly you.

There is also, Mr. Inski, the vivacious little chipmunk that still shows up for the daily treats that I offer him; the shy cardinals that I barely catch a glimpse of because they bolt at the slightest threat (real or imagined); the pigeons that I’m constantly chasing away; the sparrows, which I’ve discovered, are bullies at bird feeders; and a few other winged and wingless creatures showing up in search of food, including the Blue Jays.



With their beautiful blue, white and black plumage, their perky crest and their noisy calls, Blue Jays are one of the most familiar birds. And since they’ve been dropping by frequently lately, and adding some colour to an otherwise drab back yard, I decided to learn a little something about them. And to share it with all of you.

Aren’t you lucky to have me?

Anyway.

Here are some interesting things about these attractive birds:

- They are part of the Corvidae family of birds, which includes relatives like ravens, magpies, rooks, crows, jackdaws, treepies, nutcrackers, choughs and several others. A common name for this group of birds is “The crow family”

- Very clever, if not downright smart, Blue Jays in captivity have been know to use tools for problem-solving, such as strips of newspaper to rake in food pellets outside of their cages.

- Blue Jays are monogamous. A couple will stay together until one of the pair dies. (Isn’t this the coolest thing?)

- Extremely protective of their family members, particularly their young, they will not hesitate to attack large predators – including humans – when intimidated by them. Several Blue Jays will also band together, when a stronger force is necessary, to chase away intruders.

- Excellent imitators, Blue Jays frequently copy the sounds of other birds, including the cries of hawks, which is done to a) warn other Jays that predators are around and b) to deceive other species into believing that hawks are close by – so food sources will be abandoned and made available exclusively to the Jays. (Smart, huh?) So, if you ever see a Blue Jay fly down to a feeder immediately after the smaller birds abandon it in fear, well, you’ll know what that’s all about.

- In addition to other birds, Blue Jays can also imitate human speech and meowing cats. Most sources of information state that this is mostly done by captive Blue Jays. Still, that’s pretty impressive.

- A Blue Jay raises or lowers the crest of feathers on its head according to its mood. A fully erected crest, forming a prominent peak, indicates aggression or excitement. A crest that is laid flat on top of the head is a sign of calmness and relaxation. And a crest that spreads outwards, resembling a bottle brush, reveals that the bird is frightened.

- The lifespan of these birds is about 7 years. The oldest Blue Jay in the wild (studied by researchers) lived to be 17 ½. And the longest-lived, a female in captivity, lived to be over 26 years old. Wow.



Blue Jays are not welcome by everyone because they have a reputation of being bullies at the bird feeders. Not everybody agrees though. According to some sources of information, these birds may not be as aggressive as they are made out to be, which has certainly been my experience. I personally don’t have a problem with them. In fact, the other critters in my backyard, including squirrels, mourning doves, woodpeckers and even the shy cardinals, have often dominated the Blue Jays, preventing them from obtaining food. So, I welcome these beautiful birds, particularly this time of year, with one of their favourite treats – peanuts.



7 comments:

  1. I love photographing the bluejays at my feeders. Great photos.

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  2. Thanks Crafty Gardener. I love taking photos of these birds too; they are so beautiful. The next one I'd like to capture on my camera is the cardinal. I hope one sticks around long enough for me to get a decent shot.

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  3. Those are really beautiful shots, Martha. I like blue jays, too. The ones we have here are constantly imitating hawks and they always fool me...at least at first. They really are gorgeous, I think, and I'm always thrilled when I find one of their pretty feathers. By the way, I learned a lot about them that I didn't know from your post---thank you!

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  4. Such awesome photos, and what neat birds. I learned a great deal too, which is always great. We don't have as many birds here for some reason - colder? drier? but I'll get some food going and see what happends. We do have a ton of bunnies though - I leave carrots on the lawn for them if they get past their prime.

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  5. Beth, thank you! Considering my camera is quite old, I'm pleasantly surprised that it can take some really nice pictures sometimes. And these photos were taken from inside the house.

    I really like these birds; they're so beautiful. Of course, I put peanuts outside to bribe them into visiting my backyard, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

    As far as the info is concerned, I have a very inquisitive mind; I'm an information junkie. I love to learn about all kinds of things; it's no wonder I enjoy playing trivia games so much.

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    Tatiana, I think if you put food outside for them, you'll be surprised at how many birds will show up.

    For awhile, a few bunnies were coming around and now they seem to have disappeared. They're probably off somewhere in search of food . I hope to see them during the winter in the yard, hopping around the show. That should be cute to watch.

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  6. Wonderful pictures! Really nice shots, you're definitely right about jays, they are such intimidaters!

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  7. Hi humming bird feeder, thanks for the compliment on the photos. I think these birds are really pretty.

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