05.19.24: Blue Jay in the cold

It’s not often that I see a Blue Jay waiting patiently near a feeder. They usually swoop in noisily, chasing off other birds before grabbing food and leaving. 

Busy feeder keeps bird’s attention

Blue Jays can be difficult to photograph. They don’t tend to stay in one spot very long when people are nearby. It doesn’t matter if they are in a tree or on a feeder. A Blue Jay will complete its business and move on… no loitering, no lingering.

But the story is different when I encounter a busy Blue Jay. The bird will be focused on its task and I can get some photos.

That was the situation with this Blue Jay, photographed in the woods in Blendon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio, on a cold December morning. The bird had landed on a branch near a feeder where other birds, including a couple of other Blue Jays and large woodpeckers, were grabbing meals. This Blue Jay was focused on the feeder, waiting for an opportunity to grab some food. Its feathers were ruffled as it attempted to stay warm.

It’s not often that I see a Blue Jay waiting patiently near a feeder. They usually swoop in noisily, chasing off other birds before grabbing food and leaving. Maybe the presence of other birds its size had this Blue Jay taking a more cautious approach to the feeder.

I enjoy watching Blue Jays. They are often loud, always territorial and sometimes aggressive. They frequently travel in groups and are easily identified by their colors.

I sometimes think of them as the bird community's version of a street gang.

But Blue jays are also extremely intelligent and curious. That makes them fun to watch. I’ve seen Blue Jays find a bottle cap or other brightly colored or reflective object in a field and spend 10 to 15 minutes examining it, carrying it or tossing it about.

I photographed similar Blue Jay behavior in a field a few years ago. The bird had found an acorn, a delicacy for Blue Jays, and landed on a plant about a foot above a brown late-autumn field. The bird would hold the acorn in its beak while posing on the plant, then toss it in the air and call before jumping down, grabbing the acorn and perching on the plant again. It repeated the process for a while. It was almost like it was proud if the acorn it had found and wanted to be sure other birds in the area saw it. 

A Blue Jay ruffles its feathers to keep warm on a winter morning in Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

A Blue Jay ruffles its feathers to keep warm on a winter morning in Blendon Woods Metro Park, Westerville, Ohio.

Tech specs

  • Date/time: Dec 30, 2009 11:50 AM   
  • Camera: Canon EOS 7D
  • Lens: EF600mm f/4L IS USM +1.4x 
  • Focal length: 840mm
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Shutter: 1/250 second
  • ISO: 400

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