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BirdNote®: Canada Jays Save Food For Later

Air Date: Week of

The Canada Jay uses sticky saliva to glue food under tree branches. (Photo: © Claudine Lamothe)

Canada Jays are food storage experts. As BirdNote®’s Mary McCann explains, these prudent birds are so good at caching food, they’re even able to start nesting before the winter ends.


BASCOMB: The long cold winters of the far north may look rather inhospitable. But some birds have clever ways to find, and store, enough food to get by. BirdNote’s Mary McCann reports.


Canada Jays Save Food for Later

[Wind blowing through a forest of coniferous trees]

MCCANN: Imagine you’re camping in the mountains, surrounded by pines, larch, and spruce. The very first bird you might see is a Canada Jay, as it boldly swoops down into your camp.

Canada Jays store large quantities of food for later use. (Photo: © Nick Saunders)

[Canada Jay calls -- https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/13510 ]
This handsome jay has a smoky gray back and wings, silvery gray underparts, a tiny black beak, and big, black eyes that seem to miss nothing — especially food.
[Canada Jay scolding calls - https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/13510 1:37 ]
But the one food Canada Jays don’t eat is conifer seeds. So why do they live in conifer forests?
[Canada Jay whistles - https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/13510 1:25]
It turns out the jays hide food in conifer needles and tuck it under the bark of trees with their sticky saliva. Like other jays that cache food, Canada Jays have terrific visual memories. They can find thousands of hidden tidbits months later.

Canada Jays are so good at storing up food, they even start nesting before the winter ends. The jays can feed their nestlings entirely from the food they’ve stored away. And unlike most other birds that nest in spring and summer, Canada Jays spend that time caching food for the next winter.
[Canada Jay family chatter -- https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/207146 ]


Written by GrrlScientist
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by Bob McGuire and Charles A. Sutherland.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
© 2020 Tune In to Nature.org January 2018 / 2020 Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# GRAJ-02-2018-01-08 GRAJ-02b

BASCOMB: For pictures, fly on over to the Living on Earth website, loe dot org.



Learn more on the BirdNote website

Canada Jay – More at Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds

Canada Jay facts from All About Birds

Read about the Canada Jay in John James Audubon’s Birds of America


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