Bye bye birdies?
Tuesday June 26th 2012, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Jays, like their cousins the crows, are incredibly observant, smart birds. A very short chain of metal links showed up on the wooden box outside. I have no idea where it came from.  I wonder if they’d tried to use it as a tool?

I like to feed the ground birds: the towhees, the juncos, the doves, the titmice that would rather pick a safflower seed off the concrete than deal with the feisty finches. But during the week of solstice, the jays did what the hawks have done previously: felt compelled to declare the birdfeeder territory theirs alone.

For months, I’ve been throwing suet crumbles under the box. This worked for awhile; the littler birds caught on quickly and even the towhees started squeezing somehow under that 2″ high space, emerging quickly and nervously but victorious.

The scrub jays, whose view of that was blocked from where they perch in the trees, nevertheless figured it out. With heightened hormones last week, one threatened a towhee yet again for having food, then decided hey, a jay could get shoulder-deep under there, too, at least.

The strange thing about it was that that same suet is available in hanging holders, one of them big enough for a jay to eat off of, and occasionally they do. But the fact that I don’t let them or try not to let them snatch the ground birds’ food means that it is clearly imperative to them that that’s what they must have. Delete favorite political joke here. So.

So okay, that’s that. And as of yesterday I stopped putting anything around the box.

And I stopped giving them grief about it. Go. Look. Nothing to see, move along, move along. (Let’s break their habit right now.) I did give in just once yesterday, with a towhee hopping all over looking, and the unseen jays, the pair out there, immediately bullied their way past the others to it. I think I was still coming back in the sliding door, too soon to turn around in time to stop them. Okay, so that’s really that. Done.

They didn’t increase the number of visits to the big hanger. They weren’t hungry. It was all about dominance, and they perched on the box several times or down on the patio beside it and looked in at me like, wait–what’s up with this? One swooped in and scooped up imaginary food off the box into its beak to show me it could. They ducked a peek under it, sure I must have snuck some under there somewhere. Nada.

A western tanager flew to the big hanger today, the first I’ve seen all year, another bird too big to perch on the small cake, but the big one, no problem. Here, guys: let me show you how it’s done.

The jays left it alone.

6 Comments so far
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Political joke, indeed. This scenario is far too familiar with another two-legged species. It is far more interesting when there are wings involved.

Comment by twinsetellen 06.27.12 @ 5:34 am

are jays, like magpies, attracted to shiny things? very interesting!

Comment by Bev 06.27.12 @ 7:23 am

Oh, these guys are more fun to watch than my two! And you’re right. It’s all about dominance — just like a certain species of two-legged creatures.

Comment by Don Meyer 06.27.12 @ 9:46 am

Much more interesting that negative political ads!

Comment by Channon 06.27.12 @ 11:50 am

It’s a good post.

Comment by sunny blog 06.28.12 @ 4:37 pm

Is this a particularly busy year for jays? We’ve never had more than the occasional visitor in our yard before, but this summer there’s a pair screeching nonstop in our holly tree. I, too, will refrain from making any political jokes.

Comment by Virginia 06.28.12 @ 5:33 pm

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