Bully Birds, the Unexpected Garden Guests

I finally have the garden I've always dreamed of---and a few guests I didn't invite. Any tips for getting unwanted birds to fly the coop?

After years of backyard garden envy, my family and I can finally look out our back door at an-almost complete park-like setting of paths, flowering plants, vibrant vines clinging to the fence, a somewhat edible vegetable garden, and my favorite---a bird feeder.

There's nothing as simple yet satisfying as having small birds visit regularly after years of ignoring your property's existence. I even have a laminated "guide to Bay Area birds" near my window to help identify the little guys as they swoop in for some seed.  Even my cats, whom I feared would scare them off, have become lazy bird watchers themselves.

But as summer eases on, a new crop of winged warriors has arrived and taken control of the bird feeder, bird bath, and every tree top and fence post within sight of my little oasis. They are loud, obnoxious, and although absolutely gorgeous to look at, incredibly mean--they scare all the other birds, and even the squirrels away. (I can't help but wonder if the creators of the Angry Birds phone had a few of these monsters in mind when they designed those menacing animated faces.)

A bit of research, (thanks AllAboutBirds.org!) tells me these are Western Scrub Jays and probably Stellar's Jays---both characterized by their brilliant blue feathers and "assertive, vocal, and inquisitive" behaviors as well as their patrol posts set up high in trees, wires or posts waiting to swoop down into backyards, where they are quick to spy bird feeders as well as unattended picnic items. Ah ha!

Although these jays deserve as happy an existence as the other birds, I don't want them in my yard. They are the bullies of the bird world and have scared off all the other Disney-like critters who have been stopping by. Plus, they are ravenous. I filled the feeder to the brim on Friday morning---it's more than half gone by Sunday, and don't blame the squirrels.

So what do I do to protect the little guys who really do rely on my feeder for sustenance and my cypress trees for resting? Shooing the jays away vocally is getting me nowhere, and throwing things seems cruel. (My son suggested a slingshot.) And Nellie, the dog, just sleeps through their squawking visits. Do I just wait for them to tire of my Target-brand bird seed and hope they'll find some more interesting chow elsewhere? Or do I just learn to peacefully coexist with these blue bombers?

I'm open to suggestions from you bird-lovers out there. And in the meantime I'll have my garden hose poised in just such a way....

Olga August 27, 2012 at 10:52 PM
1. I Russia these blue birds are called "Bird of Happines", means these birds are suppose to bring a Happy Life to you, so be nice to them :) 2. Easy solution would be a simple metal net like a cage around your bird feeder- this way only small birds can go in there and get the food :) you can do one yourself , since I have not seen any for sale. Bully birds will stop guarding the food as soon as they learn they can not get to it :)
Joan S. Dentler August 27, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Thank you Olga....I promise, I will be nice to them, as they are just doing what comes naturally :) I'll try the metallic cage netting around the feeder as well as some of the distracting devices suggested by other readers. So glad to have such bird experts out there in Patchland!
sister madly August 28, 2012 at 03:01 AM
what? only some birds deserve food? ugh. it's called NATURE. deal with it!
Angela August 29, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Hello We have the scrub jays in our yard as well but we feed them unsalted peanuts as well as the squirrels and crows. We then have feeders for the smaller birds away from where we feed the jays etc. Good luck. Scrub jays are very smart and they get to know you. One will follow my husband when he is outside bbq until he gets some peanuts. Good Luck
Joan S. Dentler August 29, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Wow....so that explains why I've found some peanuts in my yard! Thanks for the advice Angela. They are smart and I have noticed they are very aware of the humans' presence. Maybe I'll try the peanut trick, far from the smaller bird feeder and see if that makes them happy---that way we can coexist peacefully without me having to chase them away.


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