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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Blue Jay Cyanocitta

Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata raise one brood per season. Blue Jays build a medium-sized cup nest of twigs and grasses, about 10 to 25 metres above the ground on a branch or crotch of a deciduous or coniferous tree. Identification (25–30 centimetres) Although often disliked because it can be aggressive toward other birds, the boldly patterned Blue Jay is familiar to most people. Its bright blue plumage and loud “JAY JAY” call are unmistakeable. This medium-sized bird is blue above with its wings and tail boldly marked with black bars and white tips. It has a large crest, a white face, breast, and belly, and a long black bill. The Blue Jay has a black collar across its upper chest, extending up the sides of its neck to the rear of its face and connecting to a black eyeline. The sexes are identical. Conservation Status The Blue Jay is a common breeder in southern Ontario where it is found throughout most of the Carolinian and Great Lakes regions. It is least abundant in the intensive agricultural areas of the Carolinian zone in southwestern Ontario. Although its status in Ontario appears to be quite secure, the North American population as a whole has experienced slight yet significant declines of 1.1 percent annually (particularly in the eastern U.S.) since 1966. Breeding Biology The Blue Jay breeds from southern Canada through the eastern United States south to the Gulf Coast. Although part of its population migrates to more southerly portions of its range each year, many birds remain in Ontario throughout the year. Breeding habitat includes deciduous, coniferous, mixed forests, and treed urban areas (particularly those with mast bearing trees). In Ontario, jays breed from mid-May to late-July, lay four to six eggs that are whitish to greenish and marked with brown spots, and Adult Blue Jay with nestlings — Photo: F. Truslow/VIREO Diet The Blue Jay is an omnivore and eats arthropods, acorns and other nuts, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates. It forages by gleaning food from trees, shrubs, and the ground, and sometimes catches insects in flight. Outside the breeding season, hard mast (particularly acorns) makes up the majority of its diet throughout much of the rest of the year. Management Guidelines Although the Blue Jay is highly adaptable and able to breed in urban areas, it occurs in much lower abundance in areas of intensive agriculture and low forest cover. Management practices that maintain forest cover and connectivity between woodlots are beneficial to this species. How to find As a common resident throughout the year, the best opportunity to see a Blue Jay is at your bird feeder. Listen for their loud harsh “Jay Jay” calls. Did you know? • Some people dislike the Blue Jay because it is known to eat the eggs and nestlings of other birds. • Migration patterns of Blue Jays are not predictable. Some individual jays may migrate south in one year, stay north the next winter, and then migrate south again the next year. • The Blue Jay can make a variety of sounds and is known to frequently mimic the call of the Red-shouldered Hawk. • Unlike most birds, mated pairs do not aggressively defend their breeding territories but may defend the nest if an intruder gets too close. 114 Bird Species Accounts

Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus Diet During the breeding season, Black-capped Chickadees feed primarily on small caterpillars, but also eat spiders, snails, slugs, centipedes, and some berries. Their diet in the winter is half insects and spiders, and half seeds and berries. They are frequently seen gleaning insects from foliage and tree bark, often hanging upside down to do so. Adult Black-capped Chickadee — Photo: Garth McElroy Identification (12–15 centimetres) One of the most familiar and beloved birds in North America, the Black-capped Chickadee is a cheerful, inquisitive, sometimes tame species that often frequents bird feeders during the winter months. It is a permanent resident across its range, often congregating in flocks in winter. Both sexes have a black cap and bib, white cheeks, grayish back, and buffy sides. Conservation Status Black-capped Chickadees are widespread and common, with a stable or increasing (particularly in the eastern part of its range) population. They have benefited from human-provided food and nest boxes. Though habitat selection is variable, occurring in both small and large forests, chickadees are more common at forest edges. Management Guidelines Black-capped Chickadees are quite tolerant of most forest management disturbances. It appears that little specific management needs to be directed towards this species, though the practice of “cleaning up the dead wood” is not recommended as it will eliminate all the small, decayed, snags and reduce local breeding densities. How to find Black-capped Chickadees can be easily spotted at backyard bird feeders and in flocks during winter months. Sometimes holding out a handful of sunflower seeds is all that is required to bring a chickadee right to your hand! In the forest, listen for the familiar “chickadee dee dee dee” call note. Photo: Peter Burke Breeding Biology The species ranges from coast to coast, including much of Canada and the northern two thirds of the United States. They require cavities for nesting and roosting but will utilize trees in many habitats from suburban areas, to deciduous and mixed-wood forests. Black-capped Chickadees are weak excavators, requiring wood in advanced decay, such as rotten snags or decayed branches in live trees. Nests are typically built in small-diameter, dead trees close to the ground. They also use natural cavities, old woodpecker cavities, and small bird boxes. In Ontario, chickadees breed from early-May to early-July, lay six white eggs marked with fine dots or spots of reddish brown, and typically raise a single brood, though second broods are not uncommon. Did you know? • Black-capped Chickadees exist within a rigid social hierarchy. Males are dominant to females, and adults are dominant to juveniles. Birds of higher ranking have access to the best food and nesting sites, and experience higher survivorship. • Black-capped Chickadees store a large amount of seeds and other food in bark crevices for consumption in the winter. They have exceptional spatial memory and can relocate food caches up to a month after being stored. • Black-capped Chickadees conserve energy during cold winter nights by entering a regulated state of hypothermia and lowering their body temperature. Bird Species Accounts 115

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