Blue Jays, Friend or Foe?

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Many backyard birders have a favorite song bird. Based on our customer’s inquiries in New Hampshire, the chickadee, cardinal and hummingbird top the list. The average backyard has the ability to attract over 25 different species of wild birds each and every day, no matter what the season. How to attract each species depends on your natural environment, feeder and seed selections.
For some birders, so-called nuisance birds can be a concern due to intense flocking and the monopolization of bird feeders created by mobbing activity. Starlings and grackles are the usual culprits of these observations.
The blue jay has an interesting following. You either love them or can do without them. The middle ground doesn’t seem to exist when discussing this song bird. It is the most misunderstood backyard visitor. We would like to use today’s column to explain these unique birds.
Consider the blue jay as you would an older sibling. An older brother or sister can be protectors or bullies, depending on the situation at hand. If someone is perceived to be a threat to you at sometime during your life, you would expect your older siblings to stand up for you as they offer protection. However, there may be times when these same protectors can push you around or bully you into an unwise activity due to your younger age or diminutive size.
Blue jays are the older brother or sister to most birds in the wild. Whenever danger presents itself, the blue jays will be the first to sound the warning call. Have you ever observed a hawk flying around your area looking for prey, only to be mobbed by dozens of blue jays? These protectors of the sky will force birds of prey to change their feeding zones away from the blue jays’ designated territories. In this instance, these birds are accomplishing the same goal as an older sibling aiding a younger family member.
In other instances, blue jays will literally bully their way into any backyard and monopolize bird feeders until they have had their fill. Blue jays love to announce their arrival with a ruckus, causing all other birds to scatter. Hence, the bully characteristic that so many customers attribute to this species.
Love or leave them, the blue jay has a unique place in the wild bird society that many humans may not understand. Without this bird in every backyard, many other species would probably fall prey to hawks, cats, and other threats to song bird survival. In many circumstances, you will hear chipmunks chipping and blue jays squawking in chorus whenever the same danger has entered the area. Together, these two very different species join forces as early warning detectors.
Enjoy your birds!

Wild Bird Depot is located on Rt 11 in Gilford, NH. Steve White is a contributing author in major publications, a guest lecturer at major conventions in Atlanta and St. Louis as well as the host of WEZS 1350AM radio show “Bird Calls” with Lakes Region Newsday @ 8:30AM. Wild Bird Depot has donated over $5,000 to local rehabilitators and local nature centers since 1996. Be sure to check out our blog “Bird Droppings” via our website www.wildbirddepot.com. Like us on Facebook for great contests and prizes.