The Intelligent Hoarder
Today was very cold and windy, the temperature barely made 20° F. Taking wind chill factor in to account, it was close to 0° F. This is the time the birds need us the most. There’s hardly any food around, water turns to solid ice and the wind factor is over 40 miles per hour, so we provide them with food, warm water and shelter. They congregate outside our patio door and enjoy food and heated birdbaths near by. Once in awhile they would burst away in all directions and the quiet chill descends on the yard. It’s an indication of a hawk patrol, looking for food as well. Our yard becomes a hawk deli.
They also scatter away to nearby bushes and trees when I sprint out the door chasing squirrels and Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura). Another time is when I knock on the glass door chasing away House sparrows (Passer domestics). I tolerate squirrels to a certain degree but not the Mourning doves and House sparrows. The last two don’t do much of anything aside being a pest. I won’t let them feel comfortable in our garden so they don’t nest here, eat my seedlings and terrorize other birds.
Speaking of terrorizing other birds, the Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) rank at the top of the list. They steal other bird’s eggs and eat their chicks if they have a chance. I once witnessed a Blue jay attack and carry off a Bluebird chick that left the nest box too early. But, the Blue Jays also eat other animals that are small enough: mouse, mole, and snake.
Blue Jays are highly intelligent and territorial. Most of the time they just zoom in to the feeder but many times they would make a loud alarm call that will cause other birds to scatter away. I first thought they feared the Blue jay but after observing them for many seasons I realized that it’s the same warning sound as when a hawk is around. They make the exact sound, though there’s not a hawk in sight, to fool other birds to go away and hide. After the birds realized that it was a trick, they came back but by then the Blue Jays have already occupied comfortable positions at the feeders.
Blue Jays are also hoarders. They will pack as many as they can between their beaks each time after they ate. They bring food back to wherever they stash away for the future. During the breeding season, due to their territorial behavior, they will chase away squirrels, hawks and crows that come in the neighborhood. It helps to increase survival chances for smaller bird’s chicks.
After balancing their good and bad habits, I let them be. They have beautiful feathers anyway. I only chase them when they take too long at the feeders while other birds wait patiently for their turn.