Test the Smarts of Your Backyard Jays with This Fun Memory Game

All you need are some peanuts.

This audio story is brought to you by BirdNote, a partner of The National Audubon Society. BirdNote episodes air daily on public radio stations nationwide.

Episode Transcript: ​

Jays are smart. 

Many jays, including the Blue Jay, store food for sustenance in harsher seasons. Over a few months, an individual bird may cache nuts, insects, even worms, in several thousand spots. And relocate nearly all of them as needed. While some of us humans have trouble even remembering where we put our keys.
Jays seem to see, and remember, the physical world in exquisite detail. 

If jays—like this Steller’s Jay—visit your yard, here’s a puzzle game you can play with them. Each day, preferably when the jays aren’t watching, place a dozen peanuts in different parts of the yard. They should be visible, but scattered—one on top of a stump, one next to a rock, below the birdbath. You get the idea. When a jay arrives, watch how long it takes to find the nuts. 

The next day, place the nuts in a different array and watch again. Do the jays find them quickly? Possibly, they already have a mental map of everything in the yard, so anything new—like a peanut in a novel spot—jumps out at them. 

See photos of all these birds, including that California Scrub-Jay you just heard, on our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Mary McCann.



Written by Bob Sundstrom

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. [176157, 42204 and 56917] recorded by Geoffrey A. Keller.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie

© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org  November 2016  Narrator: Mary McCann