Blue Jays are normally found east of the Mississippi River, but they were active in one local neighborhood
The raucous calls started coming from the large mature cottonwoods, then a flash of blue appeared at a small feeder. It was a Blue Jay. After knocking seeds out of the feeder that were too small, it started to eat the seeds spilled on the ground.
While the adult bird was feeding, calls and flashes of blue were seen in the surrounding trees and bushes. Soon all the birds flew off for a new area. About half an hour later, six of the beautiful birds flew from trees along a canal to the feeder tree and took turns going to the feeder to collect sunflower seeds. After each had eaten, the bird would fill its bill with seeds and fly off to store them in a hiding place for future use.
Through a friend, I had been invited to sit in a backyard to photograph these birds in the Labelle area east of the Jefferson Hills Golf Course. It appeared the group of jays were moving through the scattered homes. On most days they would feed for about 10 to 15 minutes and usually disappear for a couple of hours before they came back.
“The first time I saw them was on Sunday, two weeks ago,” Chelsey, the homeowner, told me. “They were here off and on during the day and kind of ignored us. This week, I was able to get a picture of four of them with another bird, a flicker, also on the tree with the feeder.”
Chelsey also told me that at least four were also at the feeders every day this week between 7 to 7:30 in the morning and with the tree losing most of its leaves, they are easier to see. It appears that two of the six that we have seen appear to be immature birds and two of them are mature males.
This is the third year in a row that I have seen Blue jays in Idaho, but most of those have been seen near Howe, a small village 60 miles west of Rexburg. Troy Allgood of St. Anthony reports that he has had one show up in his yard for several years, but it has not yet appeared this year.
Several people in Idaho Falls had four or five show up at their feeders last year.
“We have had no reports of Blue jays nesting in Idaho,” Darren Clark, an official recorder of bird sightings for the Audubon Society, said. “About 15 years ago, we had a couple of years where they showed up and then they quit coming. This may be a temporary winter migration and they may not come back for a few years in the future.”
Some of the research claims that these birds are moving west due to loss of habitat and/or global warming. The destruction of mature forests east of the Mississippi have taken some of their favorite habitat and food sources. Even though they are of the Corvidae family and are omnivores, they prefer nuts and berries to eat, which comes from mature trees.
This week, I started my winter-feeding program by putting out sunflower seeds, suet, nyger seeds and a dried fruit and nut mix and had a Blue jay and a Steller jay make a brief stop at the feeders. With the cold weather showing up, now is a good time to set out bird feeders — not only to help the birds but also for a lot of entertainment if you are quarantined with the COVID virus.
If you get some strange birds in your yard, let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.