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Stellar Jays: Thieves or Tireless Workers

Updated on January 7, 2011
Stellar Jay
Stellar Jay | Source
Evening Grossbeaks taking a bath in my plastic bird bath water feature.
Evening Grossbeaks taking a bath in my plastic bird bath water feature. | Source
Pheasant Hen feeding on cracked corn scattered on the ground by the Stellar Jays. The clay pot bird feeder is in the forground.
Pheasant Hen feeding on cracked corn scattered on the ground by the Stellar Jays. The clay pot bird feeder is in the forground. | Source

Stellar Jays: Thieves or Tireless Workers.

When I retired in August of 2010, the dream of establishing a bird feeding station and watering hole in my backyard became a reality.

A couple of years back, we were not interested in having a fish pond any longer so we dug up the entire pond and filled in the hole and made a large raised circular flower bed. After retiring this year, we decided to incorporate a bird feeding station into the raised flower bed.

Water would be a helpful attraction for the bird feeding station. We made a running water fountain from a very large plastic flower pot with a drainage tray that doubled for the top of the fountain. We bought a water fountain kit, set it inside the pot and used the drainage tray to hold water tubing and rocks for the water to cascade down. It worked great for the smaller birds, but the bigger birds such as the crows could only drink not bathe.

Water was done, now for the bird feeders. We had priced all sizes and styles of bird feeders, but since money was tight, I opted to recycle some old hanging planters and clay pots as bird feeders. The planters were hung from various trees in the backyard and the clay pots were placed in locations in the yard. Some of the planters had dead plant stalks still inside them which served as perches or cover for small to medium size birds. I left the compacted soil in each planter because the birds don’t care. Within a few weeks we had Warblers, Nuthatches, Flickers, Western Scrub Jays, Evening Grosbeaks, Lesser Yellow finches, Gold finches, Sparrows, and Rosy Red headed Finches feasting from the multitude of hanging bird feeders.

I’ll be honest with you I really got carried away with the quantity of bird feeders in my back yard. Every possible nook and cranny contained a bird feeder of some sort. I used hollowed out logs as feeders. I bought lots of various size plastic containers from garage sales to make additional bird feeders. Each week I was spending lots of money on my hobby for bird feed.

The flock of Stellar Jays living in the large fir trees of our back yard fluctuated from a high of 15 to a low of 4. Those conniving thieving Jays selectively picked out the sun flower seeds from the bird feeders. Not that they ate all they took; they would stuff their gullets so full they looked deformed then the Stellar Jays would fly off and hide the seeds everywhere. The rest of the mixed seed of millet, hulled wheat and cracked corn was scattered upon the ground as the Jays used their beaks as shovels; tossing their head side to side, seed flying in all directions.

Because the Stellar Jays would empty the bird feeders as fast as I filled them , in my mind I had to keep buying bird feed in order to make sure the smaller birds had something to eat. Maybe it was a Mommy thing with me-I don’t know for sure. To say I over indulged, is an understatement.

After weeks of cussing out the Jays, it dawned on me that they were actually doing some good for the other birds. The Jays scattered what they did not want to eat on the ground. They worked tirelessly from dawn to dusk, hoarding and planting sunflower seeds while leaving feed for the other birds.

The Crows, Mourning Doves, Towhees, Ringed neck Pheasants and hens feasted daily on the wild bird seed and cracked corn mix laying about on the ground thanks to the Stellar Jays.

Even though I make sure all feeders are cleaned out regularly and the ground is cleaned up, the Jays have become one of my favorite birds to watch as they work at what they do best: hoard food while sharing at the same time. I don’t think of the Stellar Jays as nuisance birds any longer.

Come next year, I am sure we will have wild sunflower plants popping up everywhere in our back yard which will create a fall harvest of sun flower seeds for the Jays and other birds who like them as well.

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