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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Agassiz Audubon launches campaign to improve image of blue jays

  • Bird watchers will tell you Blue Jays are happy to visit backyard bird feeding stations.
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  • Bird watchers will tell you Blue Jays are happy to visit backyard bird feeding stations.
    All you have to do is put out some peanuts, and they'll find them. Some homeowners however, are quick to complain that these feisty birds scare away some of the birds they'd rather see.
    Agassiz Audubon Society has launched a new project underway that could go a long way to change the "bad boy" image of these colorful birds.
    "Our strategy," said Sheila Bodell Hoerner of the Warren-based group, "is to put Blue Jays to work - as volunteers in our habitat restoration project. "
    How's that?
    Blue Jays will do just about anything for peanuts, Hoerner explained. And if peanuts aren't available, jays will always settle for "wild" food.
    In the fall, that's acorns. According to scientists who've studied them, Blue Jays like acorns so much, they literally stuff their faces with them. Then they fly off to bury - or "cache" - them under leaf litter for later use.
    The birds cache so many acorns that they can't always remember where they put them.
    Because of their taste for oak fruits and their skill at caching them, some scientists credit Blue Jays for helping replant forests after the last glaciers receded in North America around 10,000 years ago.
    "Yes, " said Hoerner, "scientists have actually published studies about the amazing acorn planting skills of Blue Jays!"
    "We have lots of Blue Jays," Hoerner said. "And we want to encourage them to plant oaks on our 440-acre Tallgrass Aspen Parkland restoration project. But we just don't have enough acorns for them to work with."
    So Agassiz Audubon is recruiting human volunteers to help collect acorns – but only one kind, the Bur Oak that's native to northwestern Minnesota.
    "We're trying to keep our tree genetics local," said Hoerner. "We're looking for acorn collectors in northwestern Minnesota – Roseau, Kittson, Marshall, Red Lake, Pennington and Polk Counties - the only place in the United States where Tallgrass Aspen Parkland can be found."
    For more information on how you can help, contact Agassiz Audubon at 218-745-5663 or AgassizAudubon@gmail.com.

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