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~ The Blue Jay ~

The blue jay is a most fascinating bird to observe in the garden. They are easy to attact: eager consumers of whole-shell peanuts and enthusiastic bathers, a squirrel-proof peanut dispenser and a bird bath with clean water should prove absolutely irresistible.

The bird's latin name, Cyanocitta cristata was aptly chosen as it means "crested blue chattering bird."

While blue jays are secretive during the nesting period, they are bold birds that routinely overlord the area surrounding a favorite feeder with peanuts. First, they alert their family group to the presence of food with raucous calls ressembling those of hawks, smaller birds wisely clear the area; then then begin gliding down, taking turns. If there is more food available than they can consume in one raid, they will hide the nuts from other birds by wedging them in forked branches, or bashing them into the ground and covering them with dead leaves.

Blue jays are omnivorous and will feast on large insects, butterflies as well as other birds' eggs and nestlings. I was recently witness to a blue jay, sitting on a wire, spying a weak, naive fledgling sparrow on the ground; the jay could not resist this opportunity, swooped down on the target, and immobilizing it with its legs, knocked it nearly 30 times with its powerful beak, grabbed the now-dead bird by the nape, and flew up a tree with it!

Blue Jays are fastidiously with their plumage and love to take vigourous baths, splashing a lot of water. A bird bath with gently running water is ideal for this purpose. Refresh the water daily, and in the case of a cement bath, the algal film can be easily removed with a floor brush. For your convenience and ease of maintenance, you may wish to place your bird bath within close reach of the hose, and keep the brush is a concealed container nearby.

Blue Jay at the Peanut Cage

"Yeah, I AM working for peanuts, but hey, it's a living!"


Tame Birds?



Recommended Feeders

Blue Jays may be fond of sunflower and safflower seeds, but they are fools for peanuts. They will grab whole shell peanuts from a platter and fly away with them. The recent introduction of peanut cages has made feeding blue jays much more rewarding. The birds considerably longer as they pierce nuts, flip them around and pull the smaller ones between the bars.

The peanut cages are best mounted on a poll placed where squirrels cannot jump from above and equipped with a squirrel guard. A wood platform under the peanut cage will reduce the amount of nuts falling to the ground, and give the birds more torque as they destroy the shells with their beaks. Buy large peanuts that cannot be pulled out from between the bars, because the grackles are going to grab those. Only the blue jays have the skill to bash the shells through the bars in order to withdraw the nutmeat.

Large Peanut Cage - Watch the clever blue jays flip, bash and pierce peanuts in the shell within the cage.

Bird baths such as the one featured on the left can be found at local garden centers.

Squirrel-Proof?

If you are going to feed peanuts, you will go backrupt feeding the squirrels unless you outsmart the critters. It's not as easy as it looks!

Here you can see a typical squirrel-proof feeder with a greased pole, squirrel baffle, a tube feeder (top) that is screwed on top of a large peanut cage, itself screwed to a wood platform.

The squirrels have given up!

Should you feel sorry for the acrobatic little pests, buy them a Squngee!

Blue Jay Links

The Blue Jay - From the Canadian Wildlife Federation's "Hinterland's Who's Who?".
USGS - From the US Geological Survey.
Familiar Birds - Jam-packed with information, highly recommeded.
The Blue Jay's Garden - Canadian mail order source for the peanut cage.






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