Until recently, things have been pretty quiet at my feeders; as the seasons turn, my finches and cardinals have left for warmer climes, and my sweet little chipmunk is hoarding seed like a banshee to prepare for his upcoming months-long nap. There are, however, a few of my avian friends who have stuck around and they always brighten my day. First, we now have two tufted titmice who visit my feeder together. This makes me think they’re a couple, but I need to do some research on the differences between males and females so I can be sure. They look exactly alike to me. They are like my chickadees in that they take a seed or two at a time and fly up into the trees to eat. According to the Cornell Lab Of Ornithology’s article I read, this is because they have to look down and hammer at seeds to shell them, so they can’t be on the lookout for predators and eat at the same time. Fascinating, isn’t it? We also still have a metric crapton of mourning doves – at one point, I counted twelve of them on the ground under the feeders, but the average is between five and seven. What has really excited me, though, is that our blue jay is coming back and on Sunday, he brought two of his friends with him. Like my cardinals, the jays are quite skittish around other birds and prefer to eat alone. I put out squirrel food that consists of peanuts, sunflower seeds and corn, and the corn seems to be their favorite food, although they like the peanuts too. It’s funny because my husband’s grandmother HATED blue jays because she thought they were mean, nasty scavengers that harmed her songbirds, but I adore them. They are easily in my top five favorite bird list because of their plucky personalities; not only that, but they are members of the corvid family, which include ravens, crows, and blackbirds and corvids are among the smartest birds in the avian world. Yes, they do sometimes attack nests and eat the eggs, but as I said before when discussing cowbirds, jays don’t act out of malice. They are acting on instinct that at one point in their evolutionary past must have allowed them to survive, but now they primarily eat corn, seeds and nuts. Blue jays are God’s creatures and I love being able to care for them.
Some Fun Blue Jay Facts (brought to you by my favorite resource, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website):
* There is no visual difference between a male and female blue jay. The only way to tell them apart is to watch their nesting habits. Females build the nests and incubate the chicks while the males gather nesting materials and bring the female food when there are chicks in the nest.
* Jay pick a mate in the first year of their life and remain monogamous their entire lives.
* Blue jays have been known to make simple tools to pick open seed pods (Corvid intelligence!)
* The oldest known blue jay in captivity lived to be 26 years old and wild blue jays have an average lifespan of seven years.
* Blue jays are credited with helping seed dispersal because they stash seeds away for the winter and then don’t always come back for them.