The talk­a­tive blue jay

Ontario Gardener Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Sher­rie Ver­sluis

One of the most pop­u­lar and widely rec­og­nized back­yard birds is the blue jay ( Cyanocitta cristata). This bird is not only colour­ful in ap­pear­ance but also in char­ac­ter. Blue jays are highly en­ter­tain­ing crea­tures that visit bird­feed­ers in ev­ery sea­son and can be heard through­out the neigh­bour­hood as they an­nounce their pres­ence. Af­ter sev­eral years of their pop­u­la­tion be­ing af­fected by the West Nile Virus, they have made a great come­back and it's a wel­come sight.

The blue jay’s range is vast through­out North Amer­ica as they breed in both de­cid­u­ous and conif­er­ous forests. They are most eas­ily iden­ti­fied by their bright blue plumage ac­cented with a black col­lar around their neck and a white face and chest. Both the male and fe­male are iden­ti­cal in ap­pear­ance.

Cou­ples breed from mid-April through late July build­ing their nests in al­most any tree, though they are par­tial to ev­er­greens. Nests are per­fectly con­structed with an ar­ray of ma­te­ri­als like twigs, bark, moss, cloth, pa­per and mud. Three to six eggs are laid and hatch within 16 to 18 days. The young fledge the nest 17 to 21 days later. The fam­ily stays to­gether as the young are taught to for­age for food un­til early fall when the par­ents force them to dis­perse.

Blue jays are very vo­cal and have a wide range of calls, from their rec­og­niz­able ‘jay jay’ scream to a calm al­most war­ble-like sound. They are also renowned for mim­ick­ing the sounds of other birds such as hawks.

To at­tract blue jays to bird­feed­ers there are a few key fac­tors to con­sider. One is the size of jays. They are much larger than most feeder birds so an ap­pro­pri­ate feeder is im­por­tant. A plat­form feeder is ideal as it is an open style feeder and easy to land on. Blue jays like a va­ri­ety of foods like striped and black oil sun­flower and cracked corn but their most favoured is peanuts. Un­salted peanuts in the shell are the ul­ti­mate at­trac­tion for jays and th­ese can be of­fered on a plat­form feeder or in an ac­tual peanut feeder. This al­lows for great view­ing plea­sure as the jays spend their time work­ing at open­ing the peanuts.

Blue jays are some­times in­ter­preted as be­ing ag­gres­sive at feed­ers since most birds scat­ter when they ar­rive. As with all crea­tures in na­ture there is a hi­er­ar­chy, and blue jays are high up in the song­bird world. How­ever, rather than keep­ing other birds from your feed­ing sta­tions, they ac­tu­ally aid in at­tract­ing them with their calls. Jays are eas­ily at­tracted to back­yards with the right foods and feed­ers and you will be greatly re­warded with their an­tics should you choose to do so.

Scan to see and hear blue jay back­yard be­hav­iours scan here or visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXSqCxwYdP0

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