Why Blue Jays are the Quintessential Birds of Fall by Myrna Pearman

October 15, 2021 | Myrna Pearman, Chin Ridge Seeds (en-CA)

Myrna Pearman
Myrna Pearman, Resident Naturalist & Backyard Bird Feeding Expert

This article is part of our "Ask Myrna" Backyard Bird Feeding Series.

Blue Jays are the quintessential birds of fall! They are both vocal and visible at this time of year as they flock together, roaming the woods and descending on backyard bird feeders. Not only is their brilliant cerulean plumage dazzling against a backdrop of yellow and red fall colours, but their raucous chatter livens up our neighbourhoods.

Blue Jays will readily dine on a variety of food items, including sunflower seeds, nuts and even dog/cat kibble. However, peanuts, both shelled and unshelled, seem to be their favourite feeder fare. When the grandchildren visit, little fingers generously heap peanuts all around the deck. Much to their delight, Blue Jays suddenly appear from every direction to take eager advantage of their largess.

I am a little more judicious with my peanut dispensations, usually meting them out from a peanut ring—a clever dispenser designed to require some aerial acrobatics before the delicacies can be accessed.

When you see Blue Jays gorging themselves at the feeder, they aren’t actually eating all the food. Rather, they typically gobble some food down, then stuff a few items into their expandable throat pouch (called a gular pouch), then finish off by wedging items in their beak. Thus stocked, they fly off to find spots where they can hide their booty. This practice of food caching is an avian insurance policy; during lean times, the birds can rely on these stored supplies. Armed with amazing memories, jays will return, often weeks or even months later, to the exact spots and retrieve their morsels. Of course, they might forget a few of their hiding spots, so if you see a sunflower growing in an odd place in your yard, chances are it was ‘planted’ there by a Blue Jay.

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