My birdfeeder attracts an assortment of the usual suspects, Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, Goldfinches, Mourning Doves and others. However, by far the dominant visitors in both numbers and attitude are the Blue Jays. Dozens of them take over the feeder each morning when I put out fresh seed, keeping the smaller birds at bay. In an effort to lure the Blue Jays to a separate location and allow the smaller birds better access to my main feeder, I set up a second feeder behind the house this fall.
I stock the second feeder with striped sunflower seed, instead of the smaller oiled sunflower, and add peanuts and a bit of cat kibble. The feeder is definitely a hit, and while it hasn’t lured the Blue Jays totally away from the main feeder, it has helped. I can watch the new feeder from my kitchen window, and while the blue marauders aren’t good neighbours to their feathered peers, it is a delight to watch these beauties come and go. Such handsome birds!
Few smaller birds visit this feeder, at least while the Blue Jays are around, but I did notice Downy and Hairy woodpeckers stopping by. I attached a suet feeder for the woodpeckers to the post underneath the feeder, where it would be kept dry and the woodpeckers would have less competition from the Blue Jays. As you can see in the first photo, this wasn’t entirely successful, but the woodpeckers do approve of it, and a steady stream of the black and white Hairies and Downies appreciate the suet.
In Birds at Your Feeder, a compilation of research from Project Feeder Watch, authors Dunn and Tessaglia-Hymes note that groups of 15 to 50 jays may spend the winter together within a relatively small area and concentrate on one feeder. Many flock members or their offspring may return to the same wintering area in successive years. Flock turnover is high as about half of adult Blue Jays die each year.
Blue Jays usually carry off several food items from each visit, filling their gullet before taking flight. Blue Jays may travel as far as 2 1/2 miles with their food and in fall, this behaviour makes them important seed distributors. Plants with heavy seeds, such as oaks with their acorns, may depend on Blue Jays as distant dispersal agents. Of the many species of creatures that rely on acorns as a food source, only Blue Jays carry them far from the parent tree and bury them in sites where germination is possible.