Blue Jay Hunting

Have you ever sat and watched a blue jay for any length of time? A few days back now, I spent almost an hour watching a group of 4 jays gathering acorns and in the process I learned a little anatomical feature they have.

I don't have any good images of these beautiful blue birds, and I've noticed plenty of them busy getting ready for winter in the last few days, so I headed to Lemoine Point to try and finally get a good picture of one. Lemoine Point is a pretty good spot to find several bird types throughout the year.

Blue jays have a bit of a bad reputation. They're loud and bold, chasing smaller birds away from backyard feeders. Their vocalization is rather harsh and it really sounds like they're trash talking you when one is nearby. They sometimes sound like hawks actually.

But I do find them to be one of the more attractive birds native to this part of Ontario. It's hard to miss their beautiful deep blue backs and white breasts, with nice black accents.

Everytime I see one, they are usually in motion, either flying or jumping from branch to branch, and I've never had the opportunity to get a good picture of one because of this. My BIF (bird in flight) skills are kindergarten level at best, and when they are perched in a tree, there are far too many distracting branches to make for a good portrait.

Determined to finally work at getting a good picture of one of these little flying bullies, I found a spot where I saw one and just sat there for about an hour. As long as there was no one walking through the area, they seemed to be hard at work looking on the ground for acorns, then flying away with them, returning about 5 minutes later to repeat the task.

What I didn't notice until I started looking at the back of my camera, was that they appeared to be swallowing the acorns whole! I found it a little disturbing to see this nut firmly lodged in the birds throat, but they just kept about their work, and even swallowing more nuts before they left!

I'd never seen that before, so when I got home I looked it up and it turns out that blue jays have something called a 'gular pouch', an area in their throat that can store up to 3 acorns. They will often fill the pouch, then carry another nut in their mouth, then another on their beak tip, making pretty efficient work of collecting food.

It's always fun to see a nice colourful bird, but it's even more fun to learn about their behaviour too. Finally taking the time to target a blue jay for a picture let me discover

a neat little feature they have.

I still didn't get a shot that is acceptable to me, but I quite enjoyed the experience of trying. Below you can clearly see the acorns in the birds throat, and the distended neck as they fill it up! Pretty cool, really.

I was ready to pull the Heimlich maneuver when I saw this on the back of my camera!

If you look close here, you can see one acorn tip deep in the throat, as the jay prepares to 'swallow' another one.

You can clearly see the throat distention from the nuts in the pouch here.

I'm still looking to get a good image of one of these little buggers!

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