Nuts for peanuts

Anna FasoliField Work, Science3 Comments

Over the weekend, I finally made some progress with a group of jays that have been ignoring me.  I haven’t spent much time with this group, just because they have been so unresponsive. Approaching them on foot in the scrub never got me anywhere either. But on sunday, I walked up to a single jay in this group, and while it tolerated my presence, it seemed just a bit agitated.  This is actually what I was looking for; some jays just sit and preen while I do just about everything to get their attention, which can be pretty frustrating for me. I could tell the first peanut I threw in the jays direction caught its eye, as it re-positioned itself on the branch for a better look at the sand where it dropped.

A new jay checking out the scene of free food

I crouched down in the scrub, and as I threw a few more peanuts, the jay started calling. Most of them do this right before they fly to the ground to grab the peanut, and you can almost hear a sense of frustration in their raspy calls as you watch them decide what to do.  The tracks on the sand tell me that groups of jays frequently forage along the sandy roads in the scrub, but they are hesitant to be so exposed with a peanut-throwing stranger just a few feet away. Finally, this jay flew to the ground and rushed in for a peanut. Within seconds the jay was gone in a blue blur, but I knew I had just created a peanut addict.

Florida Scrub-Jay coming in for its first peanut

Within minutes, the jay was back for more. On its third visit, it was followed in by another jay. This jay took great interest in watching the original jay snatch a peanut, which is exactly what I wanted. Once one jay in a group shows interest in me, other jays follow, and they all slowly start to see how easy and un-scary it is to take advantage of the free food.  Choosing the easiest way that it knew to get food, it pursued the jay with the nut into the scrub.  Both came back, and as the original jay landed back in the scrub on its favorite perch, it wasn’t pleased to be followed by the apparent intruder. A jay fight took them both to a high snag, where the intruder was forced off the top. The original peanut-eater came in for a peanut and left, while I continued to try to lure the other jay in. I had a whopper of a peanut with 3 nuts in it, and I knew it would be hard for any jay to resist. Sure enough, the large peanut was the motivation the jay needed to come in and get its first treat from me. 

Who could resist such a huge peanut...

The two continued to come in for peanuts and fight eachother for about 45 minutes. Other jays were calling in the distance, and a few stopped to see the peanut action, but the constant fight for food kept them away, but interested; I am sure next time I visit this site, I’ll have more takers.

 

Back at the group of jays that have been taking peanuts since day one, I got at least two different individuals to step into the trap for a peanut. These jays are losing their fear of me and let me sit very close to them while they snack on peanuts.

Florida Scrub-Jay searching for a peanut

Florida Scrub-Jay about to snatch a peanut from inside the dummy trap