The Button Box


Picture this branch as a black garden hose

We have fed the birds and squirrels for years. But the squirrels can’t hold a candle to the Blue Jays. I never thought that I could train a Blue Jay to come when I called but at least half a dozen have learned.

We feed the Blue Jays whole peanuts in the shell. I started bringing some home when we ate at 5 Guys in Wichita. They always have peanuts you can eat while you wait on your sandwich. But we never eat them all before they have our sandwich ready. So I bring the peanuts home to the Jays.

I first put them on the edge of the patio thinking the squirrels would eat them but they are not interested in them. They would rather have the sunflower seeds in the feeders. But I noticed that the Blue Jays were snatching them up pretty fast, and were the only birds other than the woodpeckers that could eat them.

I slowly moved the peanuts from the edge of the patio up to the step into the house. The Jays went with the flow each time I moved them and came to wherever they were to pick one up.

Once they were taking them from the step I thought I’d try the brick ledge below the door. Each time I’d put them out on the step and now the brick ledge I’d shut the screen door loudly. That only took a couple of times and they knew the peanuts were out.

Then I started calling them. I say “Blue Jays!” and here they come even though I didn’t slam the door. There may be a scout that hangs around to see if the peanuts appear. Or they are like Pavlov’s dogs and a slamming door or me calling them is the signal there are peanuts.

It takes less than a minute for the first Blue Jay to show up. The Jay will land on the patio and bounce along toward the step. When he gets to the step he will crane his neck to see if there are peanuts up there. There is usually one that has fallen off the ledge onto the step.

So the jay will jump up on the step and then crane his neck again to look up onto the ledge. If there are some peanuts up there he will jump onto the ledge and grab one. Sometimes they will shake the peanut and may lay it back down and get a different one. They must be checking them to see if there are two in the shell or only one.

One of the Jays has learned how to jump into the air and grab one off the ledge and never put his feet down. He just grabs the peanut and sails off to a branch to open it. But doing it that way doesn’t allow him to make sure he is getting two peanuts instead of only one

Some of them don’t bother to go to a tree nearby to open their peanut. They will fly out to the garden hose that is lying across the patio. After sitting down on the hose the peanut is placed under at least one foot to hold it down so they can pound on one end of the peanut until it is open.

Once there is a big enough hole to get the peanut out the Blue Jay will pull it out and lay it down on the cement in front of him and go after the other peanut in the shell. Once they are both out of the shell the empty shell is discarded and the individual peanuts are place one at a time between his feet and broken up into bite size pieces and eaten. There is definitely a science to getting to their favorite food.

We are going through about 2 pounds of peanuts a week but it is cheap entertainment to watch them come up and open them and eat them on the patio and they are used to us being near the door or sitting at the kitchen bar to watch them.

If they are out of peanuts one will jump up on the bricks and look in the patio door as if to say: “HEY… we are out peanuts…. FIX THAT! I would not be surprised if one of them starts knocking on the door with his beak to let us know they need peanuts.

Now the mother Jays are bringing their young and teaching them about the peanuts. So we will have another generation of trained Blue Jays eating at the patio door. (The question is: who has trained who?) To contact Sandy: [email protected]


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