Sunday, April 1, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Blue

I like Bluejays! I know a lot of people don't, and when I worked at Wild Birds Unlimited, I think after grackles, bluejays were the bird people complained most about. Yeah, I know, they do kill baby birds, but that's nature. And they don't do it all the time, right? I know for a fact that other birds (wrens and house sparrows, to name two) will kill a baby bird, but maybe people don't know about that or don't think about it because we never see a wren or sparrow flying away with a baby bird in its beak (they just do their dirty work in a nestbox).

I have several bluejays that call my yard home. They're loud and bossy, but they're a lot of fun to watch. And if they're around, they always sound the alarm to let the other birds know that the Cooper's hawk is flying into the yard.

I put out peanuts in the shell for them. They really like peanuts and I like the ones in the shell because then they have to work a little bit for their treat. And I can find their favorite trees to eat these peanuts by the numbers of shells that are left on the ground!

A lot of these peanuts they will hide away to eat another time. It's really fun to watch one grab a peanut, then fly out to the lawn and bury the peanut. They will usually make a big deal of pecking a hole in the ground and then put the peanut into the hole. Afterwards, they will cover it up with a leaf. Then they fly away and another bluejay that watched the whole episode will fly over and pick up the recently buried peanut! (Oh yeah, did I mention they're really smart too?)

When they come to the window tray feeder for peanuts, they will pick up the largest peanut. Sometimes this takes 5 or 6 tries as they "weigh" each peanut. It's hilarious to watch -- pick up a peanut, throw it down, pick up another peanut, throw it down, etc. until the apparent heaviest peanut is chosen.

I didn't even know Mr. Cardinal was at the tube feeder till I downloaded this picture!

If we're really lucky they will fly to a nearby tree branch and open the peanut while we're watching. They hold the peanut tightly against the branch with their feet and peck mightily until the shell has been opened. We're always amazed they're able to peck so accurately and never hit their toes. Their beak is quite sharp and I imagine it would really hurt to accidentally peck a toe.

After opening the shell, they will gulp down the first peanut and finish opening the shell to get the second peanut. A lot of times they will have a mouthful of shelled peanuts when they come back to the tray to pick out another one.

A pair of bluejays nested in one of our Amur maple trees last summer. I used to get scolded when I walked out to fill the bird feeder there, but I was never able to find the nest. Once the leaves fell off in the fall, I finally found it -- way out near the end of the branch. Here's what's left of their nest built of all little sticks.

So don't hate the bluejays for being the way they are. Just think how boring your yard would be without seeing their beautiful blue feathers or hearing their entertaining variety of calls.

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