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 GrayJays 
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Mountaineer
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Joined: Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:36 am
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 GrayJays
So I've read plenty of trip reports about the gray jays that eat out of your hand. I was curious to see it for myself last thursday when I hiked up Webster & Jackson.

I got to the top of Webster, and saw a few birds around. I reached into my pack and broke off a little bit of bread from my sandwich. I barely got my hand out of my pack before that bird was coming in hot. Scared the crap out of me and I dropped the bread. Then I got the hang of it and they were eating right out of my hand.

Over on the top of Jackson was pretty much the same deal. Except someone had left a large ziploc bag of trail mix at the summit, so I had plenty of ammo.

Two questions:

1) If we're not supposed to feed bears because they learn to depend on humans for food, and it alters their lifestyle negatively, then how is feeding grayjays different? These birds CLEARLY know what to expect when a human shows up. I'm no zoologist, but I can tell the difference between an animal scavenging for food, and an animal that's learned to take a hand out.

2) What is my obligation vis a vis "leave no trace" when it comes to the bag of trail mix. I don't know if someone left it there on purpose for folks to feed the birds, or if they forgot it there accidentally. Should I carry that out?


Mon Nov 30, 2015 8:59 am
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Sovereign Woodsman
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 Re: GrayJays
I say feed the birds and have some fun. Pandora's box has been opened with them. It's a unique experience that kids and adults seem to enjoy. Also the birds don't mind! If someone doesn't like it, there are plenty of other mountains and trails they can hike where the birds are not. You don't feed bears cause they can hurt people. The birds, not so much. I suppose they can divebomb your eyeballs though.

You are under no obligation with leave no trace. However if you want to be a nice guy, take out the trash. Feed the birds with the mix if you want. Or toss the mix into the trees and throw the baggie in your pack. Or just take everything with you.


Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:21 am
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 Re: GrayJays
BrianL wrote:
1) If we're not supposed to feed bears because they learn to depend on humans for food, and it alters their lifestyle negatively, then how is feeding grayjays different? These birds CLEARLY know what to expect when a human shows up. I'm no zoologist, but I can tell the difference between an animal scavenging for food, and an animal that's learned to take a hand out.

There really isn't a difference, except Gray Jays for their entire history have been known as "camp robbers", stealing whenever they could. Obviously now in certain heavily-traveled areas in the mountains they have become very used to getting peoples' food. They are most commonly seen in Crawford Notch (all but a guarantee you will see one on Pierce, Jackson, Tom, Willey, Field), but I've run into them all across the White Mountains, including some lightly-traveled areas. Have I fed the gray jays before? Yes. Once or twice even when I wasn't intending too (stole the food out of my hand en-route to my mouth). Should I/we? Probably not, but good luck stopping every one hiking in the area from doing it long enough to change the behavior of the jays (decades?)

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Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:36 pm
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Hiking Forums Are My Crack
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 Re: GrayJays
I don't see it ever stopping either. Clearly their digestive systems have become used to human food and possibly even reliant on it. Just like the old people feeding pigeons in the parks or ducks at the ponds. Should we do it? In an ideal wild world probably not. Is it harming anything? I'd also say probably not.


Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:40 pm
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 Re: GrayJays
How timely! Our friends at VFTT.org recently had at least three pages dedicated to this topic.

We have shared our snacks with them. We only let them have what closely resembles their natural diet (no cookies for you, pal!). So they've had trail mix, etc.

Where they won't harm you physically, I had some actually turn down my snacks on Field. What an ego crusher, haha.


Mon Nov 30, 2015 9:18 pm
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 Re: GrayJays
The very first time I saw a gray jay, it divebombed the sandwich my friend was about to eat. Funny, but makes you wonder if the little guy was accustomed to human food. I dunno what to think personally about the "to feed or not to feed" deal- it's a two way street.


madmattd wrote:
They are most commonly seen in Crawford Notch (all but a guarantee you will see one on Pierce, Jackson, Tom, Willey, Field), but I've run into them all across the White Mountains, including some lightly-traveled areas.


Our neighbors to the north have gray jays, too! Saw this little guy on top of Mont Megantic in QC.
Image

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Tue Dec 01, 2015 5:46 pm
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 Re: GrayJays
hiker0200 wrote:
Our neighbors to the north have gray jays, too! Saw this little guy on top of Mont Megantic in QC.


I think they are AKA Canadian Jays too, so they better have some, although I wouldn't blame them if they all came down here for our food. It is for the most part much tastier. 8)


Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:24 pm
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Peak Bagger
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 Re: GrayJays
Grey Jays are one of the few birds which are bi-coastal. You'll find them in the mountains of Washington, British Columbia and Alberta just as easily as northern NE.

In the West they have a cousin called Clarks Nutcracker. It's a bit bigger, more rackus and bolder. I've seen them work the zippers on packs (Rainier) trying to open them.


Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:56 am
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 Re: GrayJays
They are so accustomed to handouts you can get shots like this without any food.

Image

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Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:15 am
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 Re: GrayJays
IQuest wrote:
They are so accustomed to handouts you can get shots like this without any food.

Impressive considering I'm sure Marlie was lurking around during that shot!

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Wed Dec 09, 2015 10:20 am
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 Re: GrayJays
Matt is too easily impressed. I want to see one of a jay eating a peanut off her nose or something like that! :D


Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:07 pm
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 Re: GrayJays
Now that would be impressive! I don't think Marlie would go for that idea.

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Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:29 pm
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