The jay

David Chapman

For those of us who have mature trees in or near our garden the visit of a jay is a possible treat, particularly during the autumn and winter. Throughout this period jays are forever active in search of food.

Autumn is a time of plenty and jays take advantage by playing 'seek and hide' with as many nuts as they can find. Jays are adapted to carrying acorns, their throats readily expanding to cope with a half-swallowed load of up to nine acorns at a time. They will travel up to four kilometres from their own territory to look for acorns and are responsible for the spread of oak trees to new areas.

Of course it isn’t their intention to help the dispersal of the oak tree, though it is in their long term benefit, but they couldn’t be more helpful even if they tried, even burying the acorns in leaf litter which serves as a perfect compost for germination.

The intention of the jay is to store food for the forthcoming winter season and it is reckoned that a busy jay will hide about 5,000 acorns in the autumn.

Jays are very wary of people and usually avoid close contact but if you would like to get close-up views of them then why not take advantage of their kleptomania by putting out peanuts for them? From my experience jays prefer peanuts to acorns.

While I was trying to get this photo of a jay I baited the area for weeks with peanuts and had jays visiting regularly. When I switched to acorns they shunned the spot for many days until I re-trained them!

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