Thursday, December 9, 2010

Blue Jays

Ever since I was a little girl, Blue Jays have been one of my favorite birds. As a young child, their coloring and crest make them easily identifiable and pleasant to watch. Unfortunately, most people speak only of the Jay's hostility and aggressive tendencies.

Yes, it's true. Blue Jays are known to raid the nests of other birds and even throw their weight around at the bird feeder. That's how nature stays in balance, right. Blue Jays use their size to maintain dominance over smaller birds, while being watchful of their own predators. Interestingly, a study quelled those beliefs when it found that .01% (6 out of 530) of Blue Jay stomach's contained any evidence of eggs of nestlings.

Now that we've cleared the reputation of Blue Jays just a bit, check out these fascinating Blue Jay facts:

A Blue Jay's crest can reveal it's mood.
When the crest stands proudly, the bird is either feeling stressed or aggressive. They are aptly named. Their scientific name Cyanocitta cristata comes from Greek and Latin meaning: crested, blue chattering bird.

Sing a Song...
Blue Jays make a large variety of noises and calls. They can mimic everything from a squirrel to a squeaky door.

Sing it Loud...
Some of their kin are similarly noisy members of the Corvidae family: crows, magpies and ravens. The Corvidae family has been found in fossils more than 25 million years old.

Sing it Strong...
Blue Jays have strong family ties that contribute to their complex social system. You may hear them scream at predators as they chase them out of the area.

Make it Simple...

When Blue Jays are laying low, they sing a quiet little song.

Similarities to Chipmunks and Squirrels?
Blue Jays love acorns. While chipmunks and squirrels carry nuts in their cheeks, Blue Jays carry their acorns via a pouch in their throat. Like the other critters, they tuck their nuts away for later. Given that each Blue Jay hides approximately 3,000 nuts each fall, and don't collect most of them, Blue Jays have been credited with the growth of oak forests since the last glacial period.

To Last Your Whole Life Long...
Blue Jays can live up to 15 years, and they mate for life.
Native to eastern and central North America, Blue Jays are often seen in pairs or in small family flocks.

Sing of Happy...
The jays' bright blue color comes from light refraction caused by the structure of the feathers, not from blue pigment.

Let the World Sing Along...
Many mysteries surround Blue Jays. Each year thousands of Blue Jay flocks migrate the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes. Sometimes they migrate north and sometimes south.

Just Sing, Sing a Song.
If you'd like to lure them to your yard, provide them with their favorite food: acorns.
Blue Jays prefer to eat from either tray or hopper feeders rather than hanging feeders. They also enjoy peanuts, suet and sunflower seeds, as well as a drink from a bird bath. They also eat small insects like caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles.

Oddly, Blue Jays have been caught pecking paint off homes in the Northeast.
Paints have been made with calcium carbonate or limestone, as an extender pigment for hundreds of years. Blue Jays have figured out that this source of calcium is satisfying. Most birds only consume extra calcium during breeding season. It is known that soils in the Northeast are lower in calcium than other regions. Should your home become a tasty source of calcium, you can provide them with another source of calcium.

How to Provide Eggshells Safely

Unsterilized eggshells may contain harmful Salmonella bacteria. Before providing eggshells, boil them for 10 minutes or heat them in the oven for 20 minutes at 250° F. Let the eggshells cool, then crush them into pieces smaller than a dime. Offer the eggshells in a dish or on a low platform feeder.

Blue Jays sometimes rub ants on their wings.
Known as "anting", while they spread a secretion from ants onto their wings, they often lose their balance and fall over. Theories propose that Blue Jays do this as a way of "cleaning" their feathers or soothing skin irritated by molting, or to repel parasites.

Cornell University has two interesting opportunities for you. Keep track of the Blue Jays at your feeder with Project FeederWatch, or look for Blue Jay nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch.


Patuxent Wildlife Research Center longevity records:

"I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.

We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness

and humanity of the whole year.

As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time,

all through the year.

And thus I drift along into the holidays-

-let them overtake me unexpectedly-

-waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself:

'Why this is Christmas Day!' "

~ Ray Stannard Baker, pseud. David Grayson (1870-1946),

American author, journalist

Short Story of a Gardener's Winter Woes:

While visiting a dear friend last month, she paused at her kitchen sink and pointed out the window at the few fading leaves left on her maple and birch trees.

She sadly shared her dread of the coming of their stark winter silhouettes. I could see where she had cleared the droopy annuals from her neat garden borders and clipped back her perennials, exposing a barren expanse of fading mulch.

How then, can she (and the rest of us, too) add brightness and color to these cold, short days? Until the ground thaws in spring, most of us will focus inside our homes. Indoors we can give extra attention to our houseplants and occasionally bring home a bright bouquet.

Outside the ground is past planting, but it's never too early to start planning... to add some winter variety to our landscapes. Click here for information we shared last year about plants that add some interest to the often barren winter landscape.

by Renee Brannigan

Gift Cards

The Promise of Spring is yours to Give!

Woodbridge Greenhouses Gift Cards

Woodbridge Greenhouse Gift Card

Woodbridge Gift Cards available anytime 24/7.

Buy them at our website or call 647-0630.
A perfect gift for birthdays and the upcoming holidays

"It is the personal thoughtfulness,

the warm human awareness,
the reaching out of the self to one's fellow man
that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit."

~ Isabel Currier, Author