Every now and then, we receive reports from our customers that tend to boggle the mind. In these instances, we rely on established authorities of the wild bird world to assist us in aiding our clients with their predicaments.
We believe the Cornell Lab of Ornithology of New York to be the foremost experts on wild birds and bird behavior. The Lab’s library of authentic bird sounds is unparalleled in the ornithological world. The slides we use for our presentations at schools and local civic organizations are from the Cornell Lab. Project Feeder Watch and Classroom Feeder Watch are just two of over a dozen different citizen scientist undertakings that the Cornell Lab have managed into international success stories.
A few years back, we were getting complaints from our customers about blue jays pecking at their houses. Some people reported that they witnessed these birds actually eating paint chips. These reports became more prevalent during the early spring seasons.
During the mating seasons that occur each post-winter, it is not uncommon to hear that birds are pecking on homes, telephone poles and hollow trees. These are usually due to the announcing of mating territories by dominant males. These examples provide excellent drums that other birds can hear from miles away. The unmistakable sounds are irresistible to females and can be used as warning signs to competing males.
However, we had never heard of blue jays consuming paint and so we embarked on a journey into the interesting world of strange backyard bird behaviors. It turns out that this pattern was occurring quite regularly in the Northeast, with New Hampshire leading the way in terms of complaints. Blue jays were indeed taking the paint off certain homes and eating the paint chips. What would be the reason for such unusually conduct?
Our contacts in the Cornell Lab informed us that similar stories were reaching their scientists and they had concluded that the birds were simply attempting to obtain calcium for their diet. A quick call to various paint manufacturers revealed that their products use limestone as a key ingredient, which is an excellent source of calcium. Birds had discovered this and were taking advantage of this free, easy source of a vital nutrient.
Scientists theorize that the blue jays, especially in the Northeast, may store calcium before the spring breeding season due to the fact that naturally occurring calcium may be in short supply. Calcium is crucial for egg laying.
These homeowners soon discovered that if they offered crushed egg shells on simple trays, that the blue jays left their homes untouched. If you do not consume eggs in your household, consider asking your local restaurant if they would save all the egg shells each day for your use. If you explain your situation and provide them with a simple container, they may honor your wishes. Depending on the number of blue jays, it may take more than a few eggs to placate them until nesting season begins.
Offering crushed egg shells in your regular seed mixes is another example of making your backyard bird feeders irresistible to a wide variety of song birds each spring and summer. 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.