Friday, November 20, 2015

Gobble, gobble...

...makes you think of the birds that will soon grace many tables on Thanksgiving Day, right? Sounds logical, but I'm not talking about those birds at all. I'm referring to the "greedy" Blue Jays in my backyard gobbling up sunflower seeds and peanuts like they are going out of style...

One of our backyard Blue Jays on the coconut feeder outside our kitchen window. He's not greedy. He's filling the gular pouch in his throat with sunflower seeds to hide in one of his many winter food caches. 

How can one bird eat that many seeds?
It can't! When you see Blue Jays downing one seed after another, watch closely, and you'll see they aren't eating the seeds at all, they are storing them in a pouch in their throats called a gular pouch. Blue Jays have a built-in carrying case called a gular pouch under their tongues. This expandable pouch extends down into their throats as far as the upper esophagus. In late summer and all through the fall Blue Jays and other birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches, and Tufted Titmice, start hoarding acorns and other seeds and nuts in winter caches. By storing their food, they can survive long, cold winters when their normal food sources freeze over or run out.

Click here for an older post with photos of a Blue Jay filling his gular pouch with peanuts, and learn how Blue Jays with their acorn caching ways repopulated areas with oak trees after the last glaciers retreated.

Click here for an earlier post on scatter-hoarding and winter food-caching birds in our area.

Gobble,'s fun to watch Blue Jays gobbling up sunflower seeds. They waste no time filling their gular pouches, then fly off to a winter cache, deposit them, and come back for more.

Blue Jays behaving badly (or is it just fall migration?)...
While most of the red, yellow and gold leaves of autumn have fallen from the trees and faded away, it's still fall, and Blue Jays are still out there doing their autumn antics. My mom called a few weeks ago reporting 17 Blue Jays were in her backyard behaving badly. They were impersonating hawks, stealing seed, frightening the titmice, and taking over every feeder in their yard...but, she loved it! It's very exciting to have a marauding band of migrating Blue Jays in your yard, especially when you live in the city! She wanted to know what was going on, so I let her know in autumn, some northern Blue Jays take to the wing and migrate south, while others stay put. When they migrate, they form large groups of what really do look like marauding bands, and when a flock lands in your backyard, watch out. They will raid all of your feeders and plunder till nothing remains. Then they will be gone in a flash, not to return.

Click here for a pdf of a paper by Paul A. Stewart in North American Bird Bander, July-Sep. 1982, titled, "Migration of Blue Jays in Eastern North America," pgs 107 - 112. Stewart analyzes banding and recovery records to identify the birds' migratory movements, showing Blue Jays are partly migratory because some groups stay throughout the year, and of those that do migrate, not all return to their same nesting grounds. Stewart includes maps that show the locations of direct recoveries of banded migratory birds.

This fellow is not part of a marauding band. He's just a regular at the Coconut Cafe outside our kitchen window. 

...put the blue in the coconut and shake it all up. 

Gobble up those sunflower seeds Ol' Blue and secret them off to your winter food cache. Your scatter-hoarding will get you through the winter, plus it's great for seed dispersal!


Sue said...

Interesting! I did not realize some Blue Jays migrate. Hubby will be happy to hear that. He despises them, but puts up with them because of MY love for these beauties. I know they can be "pigs at the feeder", but they are also a fine alarm to warn everyone of danger. So what if they occasionally prank out everyone by imitating a hawk? I remind him (ever so gently) that ALL creatures play some role in the grand scheme of things.
Thanks for this nice post on my boisterous friends!

Kathy A. Johnson said...

I didn't know about the Blue Jays' gular pouch! We usually have a few Jays hanging around, emptying out the feeder. They such bold birds--and so pretty.

Janice K said...

I did not know that about Bluejays. Their color of blue is so magnificent. Great picrures!

Happy Thanksgiving Kelly.

Kelly said...

...Sue...thank you!! :-) I love them too. I love to hear their hawk calls outside my kitchen window! They are beautiful too...

...Kathy...I know. They blue is stunning! It's fun to watch them down one seed after another....or peanuts too.

...Janice...Thanks! Happy Thanksgiving to you as well. T-day is at my house. Love that all day with my family is fun!!

Ramadhani said...

the bird color are beautiful.
Explore Indonesia

Tammie Lee said...

it was fun and interesting to read this Kelly. I have heard so many people complain about blue jays. They are fun to watch though. And some of the little birds really hold their own. I have not begun feeding the birds, as we still have bears roaming and gorging their own bellies. But i did buy seed yesterday, looking forward to watching the birds in the quiet of winter. I have been having Pine grosbeak visit, eating the snowberries, which by now have frozen and thawed many many times. I think they have been getting drunk and take to flying into my windows. So far no fatalities. thank goodness, they are so pretty and mild in personality.

Kelly said...

...Ramadhani...thank you!

...Tammie...I would love to see a Pine grosbeak in my yard. I've heard about the snowberries requiring many freezes to help soften them up to make them palatable to the birds. Very cool. You are living the dream...a cottage in the woods with bears and all of Mama Nature around!!

marga said...

¡Es impresionante su color azul!
Gran trabajo, Kelly :)