California Scrub Jay CarolScrub-Jay Savvy

I’m a sucker for fall. I love everything about it. I’m even onboard with the pumpkin spice overload that autumn delivers. But the dramatic display of fall foliage often ignites a gloom within as it signals the end of summer and reminds me that winter waits in the wings. The other day, a little blue jay changed my perspective.

Now, I wouldn’t describe the California Scrub-Jay as quaint or cute. No, he’s loud, bossy and boisterous. His entire attitude contrasted with my contemplative mood as I strolled downtown. And seeing his electric-blue plumage swathed in the sunset-colored leaves triggered an unexpected reaction.

Seems this “strategic planner” of a bird offered me hope in a season of change and a time of uncertainty. Let me explain.

You see, scrub-jays plan for the future in anticipation of food shortages. Check out this short article in Science Daily for a CliffsNotes version of the study. Nicola Clayton, University of Cambridge professor, shares an insight worthy to ponder: “People have assumed that animals only have a concept of the present, but these findings show that jays also have some understanding of future events and can plan for future eventualities.”

Did you catch that? Did your jaw drop? Mine did! And not only can jays plan, they have special equipment to assist—a temporary pantry of sorts to store the stash en route to their secret cache.

The anatomical accoutrement is called the gular pouch. (Gucci take note.) Tucked neatly under its tongue, this small sac can stretch large enough to hold peanuts galore (equivalent to 3 acorns)! Watch closely the next time you see a jay in your backyard snacking on peanuts—you might see the bulge in its throat as it prepares to haul off the goods.

Wildlife astounds me. And reminds me that, as humans, we could stand to learn a thing or two from nature. Many creatures possess behaviors and tactics that demonstrate they are smarter than we think. Scrub-jays are a case in point. Bird brains indeed. In these uncertain times, I’d best get my “jay” on.

Have a Bluebird day!


Carol handfeeding Chickadee