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Subject:Blue Jay behavior question
From:Betsy Beneke <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Betsy Beneke <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 1 Mar 2011 08:27:45 -0800

I started feeding blue jays peanuts in the shell many years ago, when I lived in 
Detroit Lakes.  It was a Saturday morning ritual in the winter.  Start a pot of 
coffee, fill the feeders, and throw a couple of handfuls of whole peanuts out on 
the platform feeder.  I had two large picture windows in front of the kitchen 
table from which to watch.  It was a very relaxing way to start my weekend.  I 
LOVE watching behaviors in birds.
The blue jays would fly into the yard the moment they heard my storm door shut.  
There were 4-6 birds, I think.  Their "mode" was to fly to the feeder, pick up a 
peanut, drop it, pick up another one, drop it - until they found the heaviest 
one - then fly to a nearby branch, where they would hold the peanut between 
their feet, poke a hole in one end of the shell, pull out the kernel, do the 
same to the other side, and then let the shell fall to the ground.  This process 
was repeated until they got several kernels in their mouth/throat, and then they 
would fly off to the woods to stash them.  They would make repeated trips until 
all the peanuts were gone and there was a pile of shells left in my yard.  All 
the birds used this same process.  I understand that the heaviest peanuts are 
chosen first because they have more nutrition per trip.  The wimpiest peanuts 
were always the last to be chosen.
I've been feeding the blue jays at Avon the same way this winter, but have 
noticed that the jays here fly in, grab a peanut and then immediately fly off to 
the woods with the whole thing.  They don't stop to pull out the kernels the way 
the Detroit Lakes birds did.  I know that there are at least 7 different birds 
who come in for the treats - maybe more.
So my question for SOMEONE who knows more about this than me, is...why is the 
feeding pattern different?  Is it a learned behavior within the local 
population?  Or could it be that there are more birds here - more 
competition/grappling for the goodies, so they zip in to grab what they can, and 
then fly off to stash it safely away?
I'd love to know the answer!
Betsy Beneke
Avon, Stearns County


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