Bullies at the Bird Feeder

By the title, you’d think I was talking about those pesky squirrels again.  But not this time.  This time it’s an even more obnoxious bully, the Blue Jay.

Blue Jay

Despite how handsome they look, looks can be deceiving.  They are the original “Angry Birds”.  My mom Peggy has a terrible time protecting her feeders, as well as the smaller birds visiting her yard, from the very unfriendly Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays aggressively scare away the other birds, sometimes even killing them, then gluttonously eat up all the seed they can.  It’s very frustrating to say the least.

Would you mess with this guy????

Blue Jay

 

Blue Jay

 

Blue Jay

They don’t just eat what they need, but hoard it in their beak and expandable throat and esophagus.  It’s said they can hold five to six Pin Oak acorns in their esophagus and beak, so you can imagine how many sunflower seeds it could hold!   Once they’ve gorged themselves, they take their cache away and store it for later.  Usually, they bury it in the ground like a squirrel or a dog might.  Then they return for more.

Blue Jay

Blue jays are also highly intelligent.  They are remarkable in their ability to mimic other birds like raptors, presumably to further scare off any competition. They are also uncanny in their ability to figure out bird feeders.  Peggy has even seen them hanging upside down from her suet feeder pretending to be a Downy Woodpecker.

Downy woodpecker

So what to do?  There are ways to hinder their ability to get to the feeders.  The suet feeder above is often suggested as one way, but in her yard they’ve figured it out.  Another option for protecting the suet from being devoured is to use a metal cage.  The small woodpeckers can slip right in, but leave the Blue Jays looking longingly at it.

Birdfeeder

They’ve also figured out how to get out peanuts from this tube feeder that is usually visited by White and Red Nuthatches, Titmice and Chickadees.  Into another cage it goes.  The Blue Jays can get a few peanuts now and then, but it’s a lot of work

Birdfeeder

You can also sometimes adjust the type of seeds you put out.  Blue Jays are much fonder of sunflower seeds than safflower seeds, and really don’t like nyjer (thistle) seeds.

Feeders like this Heritage Farms feeder also work to keep the Blue Jays off.  The feeder perch can be weight adjusted to keep out the heavier birds.  The seed tray gets shut tight when a too-heavy bird lands on it.  Peggy has it set to allow Cardinals and Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks to land and eat, but if a little bird lands on the perch with them, it’ll close.  That’s a small sacrifice to make to keep the Blue Jays off.

Birdfeeder

Do you have any bullies in your yard?   The other day in my yard, one of the Cardinals was chasing off sparrows trying to eat seed off the ground.  Oddly though, he seemed fine with the Juncos also eating the seeds. I guess even he knows which birds are a nuisance.

Photos by Peggy

6 responses to “Bullies at the Bird Feeder

  1. Blue Jays are “cousins” of the crow,so it figures they’d be as smart & wiley as crows. And yes, I’ve seen some bully cardinals at my IL feeder. The female cardinals are worse than the males!

    • Thank goodness the crows don’t show up to the feeders. They are awfully smart and the blue jays show many of the same traits.

  2. It is funny reading this ( although I have read others saying it too) because they are very docile here. The Jays raise a family each year and are always well behaved at the feeders. Only one of the young is left from this year’s clutch because two of the Jays were taken by hawks. I found the blue feathers all across the yard.

    • That’s interesting how different your experience with Blue Jays is. Does make you wonder why, doesn’t it? One year we had baby blue jays in our yard. They were really cute. But that was before West Nile arrived and wiped most of them and the crows out.

  3. I need one of those cages for my peanut feeder. Bluejays are certainly greedy, but I haven’t seen them attack other birds.

    • Not sure where my mom got all those cages, except “out of the shed”. She mentioned to me that she’s seen a Blue Jay attack and kill a Goldfinch at her feeder. I tried to figure out if they’d then eat it or not, or if it’s just a matter of territory. Not sure.

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