Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jayded

These blue jays which live up to 15 years and mate for life are clearly unafraid to let me know when they are in my backyard.  They call loudly when I step outside my deck, perhaps telling others that the big white bath-robed bird carrying that black box is back---yes, I do go outside in my PJs in this cold weather.  The jays have chased me all the way to the dock to remind me that the bird feeder is empty!  The only thing I see them duck away from at the feeder is the woodpecker who is pack'n a weapon.



They are not totally fearless of me because they hesitate diving to the feeders when I first arrive.  They watch me for some time before going after the sunflower seeds.  I have read that, like parrots, they can mimic sounds in the woods including squirrel chatter.  They also store nuts, usually acorns, just like squirrels.  They have been seen to stash over a thousand acorns for their winter larder. 



The seeds they pull from my feeders are placed carefully in their claws and pried open with their beak although I have seen them recently swallow sunflower seeds whole, unlike the woodpeckers that place the sunflower seeds into holes in the trees and then peck them open that way.



I found this anecdote on the Cornell bird site:  "Bird watchers sometimes notice Blue Jays "anting," rubbing their wings with ants, spreading a substance the insects secrete, and often losing their balance and falling over in the process. Scientists don't have a convincing explanation for this intriguing behavior yet, though they have suggested the secretions could help clean the feathers or soothe skin irritated by the molting process. Some have hypothesized that the secretions repel feather parasites, but experiments so far haven't found the evidence."  (Personally I think they saw and fell for one of those deceptive 'keep your feathers young' ads recommending the use of queen ant butter.)


At the end of the day there was this little fellow that clearly had almost lost a battle with a hawk or eagle.  He was not as nimble at the feeder or in landing on the branches due to his compromised shape.  I have read that they will re-grow these tail feathers at the next molt.




"I got away, didn't I?"


(If you like birding adventures may I be so bold as to suggest you read my posts -in three parts- about "Zorro," another bird friend, on my other blog.)

10 comments:

Barry said...

Blue Jays are among my favorite birds Tabor and frequent visitors to our garden. Interesting about the "anting" behaviour, I'd never heard of that before.

NanU said...

Hmm, sounds like ant cream could be the next big thing! Invest now!

Lovely pictures of the jays. They have so much personality.

Brian Miller said...

love to see the jays. such marvelous color. interesting about the anting...i never knew that...

One Woman's Journey said...

Beautiful pictures. I have a number of them in my woods lot!!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Beautiful pictures of the bluejays, Tabor. We have them in spring and summer--but not in winter. I don't know where they go--but they are not in our area...

Hugs,
Betsy

Hilary said...

Geesh you got some wonderful shots, Tabor. You've got to love these bold critters.. they demand it! Cool to know about the anting.

Now off to read the latest installment of Zorro.

Dave King said...

Yes, I have read that they can mimic squirrel chatter - and mobile phones.

Annie in Austin said...

Blue Jays can be seen around our garden most days - never knew they mated for life or lived so long, Tabor. Maybe our two live oaks and two pecan trees are the attraction?

Anting? Any chance formic acid gets bird-brains high?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Richard said...

Interesting that you mentioned swallowing seeds whole. Actually what they are doing is storing them in their neck pouch for transfer to their hiding place. I've seen them swallow/store at least 8 shelled peanuts in their pouch with another 5 in theoir beaks at one time.

Kerri said...

I have a post in the works about Bluejays too. They're such striking birds...lovely colors, and I like the way they shriek to let you know they've arrived. They bully each other, but not so much the other birds, and don't usually stay around long enough to make nuisances of themselves (like Starlings for instance).
I sometimes go out in my PJs too with the camera, but not on these very cold days :)
They're very photogenic, aren't they? I love their expressions. You got some really good shots.