Last year and this year I have had the "honour" of hosting a family of blue jays. Last year I witnessed numerous times the proud parents chasing away hummingbirds as they entered my yard to feed. The hummingbirds would continue to sneak in so I was lucky to spot them as they darted in and out of the yard. The young blue jays fledged and almost immediately I spotted hummingbirds more regularly. Well the blue jays showed up again this year and hummingbird sightings dropped again. This year I was lucky to witness the blue jay parents coaxing the fledgings out of their nesting tree in to adjoining trees and off they went. Hummingbird sightings have gone up again just like last year. After thinking about it for a while I've decided I don't mind having them both in my yard. Watching the blue jays chase away squirrels and other birds and have their turn in the bird baths is "almost" as enjoyable as watching the hummingbirds. Note I said "almost".
I love Blue Jays. They are such scamps. However, they are predators. I have seen them chase and almost catch hummingbirds. I have no doubt that they are capable of taking one now and then. There isn't much you can do to protect your hummers other than placing protective cages around the feeders as I have, but do beware.
Nancy-- I have also witnessed blue jays coming very close to nabbing hummingbirds. Fortunately they missed each time. When the blue jays are around, the hummingbirds seem to be super wary. As you say there isn't much I can do but I place the feeders near bushes so they are at least protected on 180 degrees and only have to look out for the other 180 degrees. Last year they moved on after raising their young so hopefully they are gone.
I have a large family of Bluejays (and also Cardinals) that are in and out of my yard all day long all year long .... either eating at the feeder, drinking at the birdbaths, or bathing in the waterfall. I've never witnessed any of the birds chasing each other ... EXCEPT ... the Red-shouldered Hawk. The birds are basically polite to each other and even wait their turn at the feeder. (I only have 1 seed feeder in my yard. Well... actually 2 on the same post.) The bluejays make some commotion when they are impatiently waiting their turn at the feeder, but the doves often get there first. The dove population is way down because of the Hawk. If the Hawk comes anywhere near my backyard, all heck breaks loose. The bluejays immediately start a ruckus! I always know when the hawk is in the backyard because several bluejays start screeching and making a LOT of NOISE!!! They immediately warn all the other wildlife including the squirrels and other birds! I've never seen any of the birds chase the hummingbirds. (Not that I have a lot of hummers in my yard at a time.) I've only seen the Bluejays and Cardinals chase the hawk, not any other birds!
The hummingbird feeders are away from the seed feeder. The hummers usually take off if any of the other birds come near them. Now that's not to say that it doesn't happen that the hummers get chased, but I've never seen it. I do think most all the birds are well-fed, so to stalk another bird as a food source (especially a hummer)is probably not a high priority for most of the birds that come into my yard. I've not seen the Hawk chase a hummer either, though I know it is quite possible.
What I've witnessed is a balanced and seemingly well-behaved wildlife community in my yard. (I hope what I have seen is the daily norm.) I do believe that the critters are well-fed and that may be what is keeping the peace among them. The only predator is the hawk though the bluejays let all know when that hawk is around.
I've also noted that the hummers come into the yard when the other birds have just been there or are currently in the yard. Maybe they feel safe when they know other wildlife are around?
I don't use pesticides except when absolutely necessary for a spot application, so I have a lot of insects in my yard ... especially spiders. Some times it seems like too many spiders as I get caught in the webs daily. So there seems to be adequate insects for protein. The birds get 2 cups of a nut and fruit mix in their feeder every day. It is empty by the end of the day. (I had thought the squirrels were getting into it until I watched all the birds that use that feeder throughout the day. Nope! Not the squirrels ... it's actually the birds cleaning out the feeder daily!) I think all the snowbirds (people) leave by this time of the year and take their feeders down, so the birds are all coming to my house now for food. More birds for sure!
Edited to add:
I also raise caterpillars and release them when they morph to butterflies. I've never seen any of the birds go after the butterflies either. That was a major concern when I started attracting birds because I was gardening for butterflies 2 years before birds. I do know though that they like the caterpillars that eat parsley and dill which I have to cage (Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars), but I've never seen them chase after any of the butterflies. I have butterflies flying around my yard all the time. Even near the seed feeder. The birds just ignore them.
I have large oak trees and they attract jays and squirrels, which then attract hawks. I love to see the hawks and you are very right, Becky, when they see the hawks they raise a ruckus.
I have seen Blue Jays chase hummingbirds--and they were trying to catch them, not just chasing them away. Usually the hummers are too quick. Like Nancy, I have never seen one catch a hummingbird, but that doesn't mean that they haven't when I wasn't looking.
I have the same experience as you with caterpillars, Becky. The cardinals love the Eastern Black Swallowtail cats. I will see a bunch of them eating the fennel, growing quite big and then then next day they are all gone. I think that once the cardinals find one they then look for the others. I have started putting the cats in a large plastic box/cage in the garage. They do quite well there.
Finally broke down and bought a camera. It has bothered me that I can't post any pictures here. Now I need to learn how to use it. It's gonna take a while.
I too have mature oaks (and redwoods), which means lots of jays. I see the opposite, though... hummers chasing the jays. It always cracks me up. Just yesterday I watched a jay trying to get the ripe cherry plums, which are in a [nesting, I believe] female Anna's territory. She should not care about cherry plums, but she chased the jay. TWICE. And the jay fled.
Maybe the west coast hummingbirds are tougher. Or our scrub jays are wimpier?
Bay Area, CA
Re: Blue Jays and Hummingbirds
June 15 2012, 9:37 PM
Have seen a couple of Ruby Throats chasing Blue Jays, but never the other way around.
Maybe the bluejays are more squawk than chomp when chasing hummers?!!!
This is off topic ...
Tom - You would laugh ... I've rarely had our state butterfly (Zebra Longwings) come to my yard. Usually just one or two every now and again. Well, when I moved the portable garden from the school back to my house, along with it came the White blooming Passiflora vine.
I've had a mating pair of ZLW in my yard for the past couple of weeks. Well, the female has been laying eggs all over the 3 passiflora vines in my backyard. Unfortunately, the wasps are finding the caterpillars before I do. When I moved the portable garden into the backyard, I put it next to the picket fence around my patio. That's a place the wasps don't usually check because there are rarely caterpillars on any plants in that area. Well, the ZLW female did indeed find the Passiflora vine growing in the portable garden and she laid eggs all over the vine. I pruned those ends (with the eggs) and put them in a little cage. I now have about 40-50 baby caterpillars that I am raising temporarily in that cage. They will all be transported back to the portable garden when they are a little bigger. I have the screen around the portable garden now which includes the passion vine to protect the caterpillars from predators. Interestingly, the caterpillars seem to stay in groups on the leaves. Not lone caterpillars like other species of butterflies. And to top it off, I've got almost as many caterpillars of the Eastern Black Swallowtail currently being raised in the portable garden as well. There are BST chrysalis all over the place inside that screened container garden. Both of these butterfly species have not frequented my yard in many, many years. And if it couldn't get any better than that, I've found a few of the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars for the very first time ever in my yard. I've had a spreading Pipevine growing all over my back fence area that has never attracted the Pipevine butterflies. But this year something has changed! This is going to be a very interesting year for butterflies in my yard! I may be breaking my average 200+ raised and released butterflies in a given year. Must be the warm winter and spring we've had.
I bet YOU will have lots of butterflies and caterpillars this year, too!
Yes, Becky, it's been the year of the butterfly for me. If I go out in the yard about ten AM I will five or six different types of butterflies in about ten minutes. Many, many, Zebra Longwings and Gold Rims. I have never seen so many ZL or Giant Swallowtails or Pipevines. Getting more Fritillaries and Sulphurs now. (Just saw a female hummer and a baby cardinal being fed by her Moma-hopefully not caterpillars.) Also, I'm seeing more Tigers lately. I think the wet weather has helped.
Not seeing many Monarchs lately. Most of my milkweed died off, but it's coming back now. Usually the Monarchs are the most plentiful after the Goldrims.
Need to do more garden work today. Got my order in from Santa Rosa... Decent plants, but small. Going to repot and fertilize a bit.
Peace and tranquility have returned to my garden. It's been 3 days since the blue jays moved on to bigger and better things. The chickadees have come out of hiding and are feeding their young out in the open. Goldfinches have started to drink out of the birdbaths again. The squirrel highway through the blue jays nesting tree is now open again and squirrels are streaming through it. Nuthatches are back as well. The hummingbirds are visible more often and are not darting in and out of garden. While it was nice to host a family of blue jays I think sharing them with others is even nicer. Good luck to the lucky gardener who gets to host my family of blue jays. Please remember all birds are nice but some are "nicer" than others.