Sep 25 2009

Will Travel For Food

Published by at 7:20 am under Migration,Songbirds

Blue jay (photo by Chuck Tague)
Are you seeing a lot of blue jays lately?  I am. 

I used to think blue jays didn’t migrate because their range map shows them as year round in North America.  Because I see them all year, I assumed I was observing the same individuals.

That was until one May morning at Lake Erie when I saw a long line of jays flying northeast along the shore.  Chuck Tague told me they were flying to Canada but the lake was a big barrier.

As we watched, the jays turned north over the lake and hit a wall of air none of us could see.   One by one they battled the invisible barrier.  Finally they broke formation and flew back over land where they regrouped and again proceeded in a line, following the shore.

Other than similar observations at migration hot spots, blue jay migration is subtle if it occurs at all.  Blue jays don’t have to leave home if they can store enough food for the winter.  When they do decide to migrate, they travel during the day in small groups of 10 to 30 birds.  It often doesn’t look like they're migrating because the jays fly one at a time from tree to tree, a behavior that resembles foraging.

This fall blue jays are leaving Canada in droves because their winter food supply is low – too few acorns, beechnuts and hazelnuts.

I’m sure they'll enjoy their time Pittsburgh.  We have a bumper crop of acorns.

(photo by Chuck Tague)

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Will Travel For Food”

  1. travel agent atlantaon 26 Sep 2009 at 2:27 am

    Wow, that’s interesting. I’ve been up to Erie, PA so I know what you mean by seeing them fly over the lake. I also assumed that the Blue Jays I see at my home where the same ones, I guess I was wrong.

    I love the title and pic by the way, thanks!!

  2. Janeton 28 Sep 2009 at 11:51 am

    I saw the Blue Jay migration last Fall, when you say I saw one after another heading southwest from my area in southeast lower Michigan. It was an amazing sight to see so many of them in mass migration. There have been winters when their population was very scarce. Hope this year we have a wintering group, they are a beautiful sight in the snow.

  3. Andreaon 05 Oct 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Is there a way to tell the difference between male and female jays? I have been feeding birds for years but could never figure out how to tell the males and females apart.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 06 Oct 2009 at 7:07 am

    Andrea, I looked into it and no, there’s not a way to tell the difference between the sexes. Behavior at mating time is the only clue.

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