Monday, January 4, 2010

365 days later Ol' Blue is stealing peanuts from Red...and is still trying to get me to rename the blog...

…and that’s just fine because he’s fun to watch, and really he’s just doing his job. After all, Ol' Blue is a bird set up for seed dispersal. He has a built-in carrying case called a gular pouch located under his tongue. This expandable sac extends down into his throat as far as the upper esophagus. Blue’s gular pouch gets quite a workout around our house! As soon as I stock the peanut feeder the Blue Jays start arriving. One, two, three…sometimes up to 15 at a time will perch in the big Ash Tree and take turns swooping in for a peanut, often returning to their original perch to hatch out the peanut and slip it into their gular pouches. It’s fun to watch their throats grow!

Blue sitting in our Ash Tree with his first peanut of the morning.

...he hammers away on the shell...


...eventually grabbing the peanut...


...and slipping it into his gular pouch.


In late summer and early autumn Blue Jays and other birds start hoarding acorns and other seeds/nuts in winter caches. By storing their food, they can survive harsh winter conditions when normal food sources freeze over or run out. (Click here for an earlier post on this subject.) Blue Jays play a critical role in acorn dispersal. When they cache their food, they often dig small holes and bury the acorns, and according to Cornell’s site, All About Birds, Blue Jays store a lot of acorns! In one study, six birds with radio transmitters each stored 3,000 – 5,000 acorns in one season! Not all of the seeds or acorns are retrieved, however, and those that are abandoned often germinate. For this reason, Cornell also mentions Blue Jays were responsible for repopulating areas with oak trees after the last glaciers retreated.

Trip 2, flying in for another peanut after hatching out the first one.


...trip 3...

...trip 4. Rarely do they take just one peanut and move on. They usually return to their same perch to open the shell and store the peanut in their gular pouch before returning to nab another.

How many acorns can a Blue Jay move at once? A lot! A Blue Jay can move up to five acorns at a time—2 or 3 in the gular sac, one in the mouth and the last one at the tip of his bill. I’ve seen Blue Jays hatch out and swallow 8 or 9 single peanuts before moving on. I’ve also seen them swallow a hole peanut shell into their gular sacs…then take another in their mouth….and another in the tip of their bill, but usually, they hatch the peanuts out of the shell and take those.

Blue Jays harvest several thousand acorns each fall 
and bury them in the ground. Any acorns the Blue Jays 
don’t eat sprout into saplings, so squirrels aren’t 
the only ones important to seed dispersal.

So after a year of blogging (my first post was January 3, 2009), Blue is still trying to get me to rename the blog “Blue and the Peanut” (click here for that early post), but I don’t think Red has anything to worry about! I have had so much fun over this past year. I had no idea I would meet so many other birders and bird bloggers. I’m so happy to be part of a community of bird and nature lovers. Thank you for always dropping by to visit and leave a comment or two. (...he's still at it...click here.)

Beak Bit
I wondered how many other birds had gular pouches. Quite a few do, some of the most famous are the pelicans. I love watching them scoop fish into their pouch and carry them off in their big pouches. The frigate birds also have a famous gular pouch, inflating the well-knows red skin during courtship displays in the spring. Other birds with less conspicuous pouches are White-winged Crossbills and Ptarmigans. The gular pouch allows these northern species to store food to make it through the arctic nights or bad snow storms (click for more info). Local birds with gular pouches include, owls. If you’ve ever seen a Great Horned Owl hooting, you’ll see the white feathers under his bill poof out…that’s his gular pouch. Cormorants have visible gular pouches also (click for more info)…just to name a few...

48 comments:

Roy said...

Hi Kelly, you will just have to rename it,
"Red and Blue's Peanuts".
Superb images

Laure Ferlita said...

I had no idea these birds had gular pouches and I've been around them all my life - thank you for teaching me something new today!!

Richard said...

Great shots and education. Watched a BJ storage 8 peanuts in it's pouch and then 5 more in it's beak. Fun to watch them eat.

How about "Red, Blue, and Another Nut"...just kidding.

Laure Ferlita said...

P.S. Congrats on the milestone!!

Kerri said...

I always learn so much when I visit. We have lots of Jays and I see this behaviour a lot...I also put out the peanuts in the shell and make them work for it :)
You got some LOVELY shots!!

Happy 1 year Anniversary to you and your blog!

Cindy said...

Hi Kelly, that was a very interesting post. I never knew this about Jays or any of the other birds you mentioned. I'll have to keep an eye on the Jays that come around here and see if I notice it.

Happy blog anniversary!!

Cindy

Steve Willson said...

The Blue Jays around here have to make do with sunflower seeds. They find some pretty interesting places to hide their cache. I never know where I'm going to find a sprouting clump of sunflower seeds.

Susan said...

oH YOU CLEVER THING YOU! What a great post Kelly...I won't even begin to talk about how your blog has been an inspiration to me (it has)-- as has its author (you). But really, until tonight I never knew why our BlueJays could pack 9-11 nuts (by my count) away at a time. Who knew it was the gular?(That's a great scrabble word) Happy 100th!!!
ka ka!

Roy said...

Hmmm... Maybe we'll have to change the term "pack rats" to "pack Jays". They really pack 'em in, don't they? I've even seen them do it with small acorns!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Congrats on a year of blogging, Kelly... I'm glad we found each other --and have met IN PERSON too... Now--that is what is special...

Blue and the Peanut just doesn't sound as good as Red and the Peanut... Our jays have just disappeared... Don't know where they are!!!!

Hugs,
Betsy

Elaine said...

Lovely photos and great information! I've learned a lot from you and always enjoy reading your posts and looking at your beautiful photos and artwork. I look forward to reading about your birding adventures in the coming year.

Midmarsh John said...

A great series of photographs and interesting information. The Rooks here have such a pouch where they can carry a lot of seed to feed their young and others in the colony.

Love the new header picture.

നൗഷാദ് | noushad said...

Wow...great catch, Love it !!!

Chris said...

Yeh now the blog name should be Blue and the peanut... This is a beautiful bird!! I'd like to see it!

Wanda said...

I guess my Jays are at your house...I need to put out peanuts. Thanks for the facts about the gular pouches Kelly. Again, your header is beautiful...I so appreciate it...every time I see it!

Jayne said...

Happy Blogoversary Kelly!!
I so enjoy visiting you and seeing your beautiful blog.
I had no idea that Jays can do this! Fascinating!

Toni said...

Happy Blog Anniversary. Great shots and info on the Blue Jays. I knew they stored food but didn't know abou the gular pouches.
Oh yea and keep Red and the Peanut.

Diane said...

Kelly,
You know the universe smiled when God created the Blue Jay! Fabulous shots of a truly fascinating blue.

The Early Birder said...

Hi Peanut. Another interesting read. Congratulations on your 1st year blogging. Cheers..FAB.

Warren Baker said...

Kelly, That first pic took my breath away, what a fantastic colour that jay is. well done!

ShySongbird said...

A fascinating read Kelly and beautifully illustrated with your lovely photos.

Many congratulations on 12 months blogging, I look forward to many more, it is always a pleasure to visit you :)

Tammie Lee said...

fantastic post, thank you so much and Happy New year to you dear lady!

Ginnymo said...

Great photos Kelly!! I watch them fill their mouths with a lot of nuts before flying away. I sometimes will buy the peanuts with the shells on in the winter but in spring there is always a mess around. From the squirrels mostly. They sure are fun to watch!!

Oxonhoath Birds said...

Wish we had BLUE jAYS IN THE UK.A really nice looking bird.

Bob and Cynthia Kaufman said...

Very informative blog, Kelly!

Jenny said...

Great Blue Jay photos Kelly and a very interesting read too. All you need now is a Ivory Gull to turn up and start taking peanuts then you can have a patriotic birding blog! Hardly very likely I know!
(-: It's been a real pleasure to read your blog and admire your photography too!

Carol Mattingly said...

Kelly your blog rocks. Love the blue jay story. And the photos and all the info. Had no idea blue jays stored nuts in a pouch. Carol

Tina said...

Kelly,
Congratulations on your year of blogging!! You always capture the neatest photos and create such a nice commentary to go with them!! Love your (new?) header. Looking forward to all those posts of 2010! Maybe a yellow-belly sapsucker will enter the red/blue theme and then what?? tee he

Montanagirl said...

Kelly - great job on the photos of the Blue Jay. Too fun. Wish they'd come around here!

Chris Petrak said...

Great post, Kelly - fun and informative, and I love the BLJA, though sometimes I wish they would shovel fewer seeds onto the ground before picking out one. Alert, fun, active, noisy, gorgeous - and your photos got the personality.

NatureFootstep said...

oh, my, that´s a sool bird. I wish we had it here. But we don´t.

holdingmoments said...

What a great post Kelly; full of information. Fascinating insight into their behaviour.
And congratulations on the year blogging.

JeniQ said...

Kelly you do realize you are making me want to put some feeders out....

Robin said...

Your photos are phenomenal! Love the cardinal on the banner, also.

TonyC said...

Very interesting post Kelly. Thanks so much. Love your Blue Jays - stunning birds.

mick said...

Great photos and a very interesting post.

Craig Glenn said...

Beautiful series!

Craig

Jain said...

Great post and photos, who knew about such acorn dispersal?! Congrats on 365 days and even more blogs!

Tabib said...

Thanks for info about that pouches
Happy Blog Anniversary!

Jayne said...

Ding, ding, ding... KELLY RICCETTI... You are a winner of a CD!! :c)

DK Miller said...

Great post, I learn something new every time I come to your blog. Great shots of blue!

Connie said...

Great info on Blue Jays. I love to watch them myself. Wonderful photos as always.

Stay warm,
Connie

Wren said...

I love blue jays! They are smart, and funny, and clever, as well as beautiful. I won't be surprised to come back one day and see Blue in the title. :)

Steve Borichevsky said...

It has been a wonderful year.

Caroline said...

Beautiful bird - those tail and wing feathers are splendid! Fascinating info too - thank you!

Claire M said...

Wow - what a wealth of info you have!! I love your paintings of birds - they're wonderful!! Hope to see you in Paris or at the beach soon....

Ars Natura said...

This bird is very beautiful with these metallic blue feathers.

NicoleB said...

Thanks for the Info and these awesome shot.
I can only imagine how hard he's trying to make you rename the blog ;)
He's gorgeous and amazing!
I've never seen the actual "swallowing" in a photo or Life!