The Siberian jay is a member of the crow family, and is an intelligent, sociable and playful bird. Most of Finland’s jay population nests in Lapland. These lively birds can be seen at campsites along the hiking and skiing trails, and visitors are happy to feed the tame jays.
When it comes to food, jays are not known for being choosy. Almost almost any animal and plant-based nutrition will do, but not all at once. They hide some of it away for the winter, and cover it up with tree bark cracks and lichen, for example.
Is it a good idea for people to feed our own food to birds? Will the poor jays get their veins clogged up with salt from sausages and sugar from biscuits?
Although the digestive system of birds is slightly different to that of humans, it is similar enough so that normal human food won’t harm them.
In winter, jays mainly look for energy-rich food, and are not particular about nutrient or protein sources. They will be quite happy with bits of sausage, bread and biscuits.
As for fat and salt levels, feeding jays with bits of grilled sausage sounds irresponsible, but it’s not as bad as it might seem. Birds’ blood contains almost as much salt as human blood, so small bits of normally-salted sausage do not pose a threat. Jays get a lot of energy from fatty substances, and some sausages contain proteins as well.
You can also give them some sugary sweets, as long as they are not cubes of pure sugar or such like.
All the same, do not feed birds with highly-salted products like potato chips. Excessive salt is harmful for us humans and birds are no different. If jays eat highly-salted food, they soon become thirsty, and in winter only snow is available to quench their thirst. Cold snow quickly chills the birds’ bodies, which then need more energy.
Jays should get as much nutrient-rich food as possible during their critical growing period. You should not feed any human food to chicks. Known for being timid nesters, jays do not scavenge camp sites for food during nesting time. Instead they raise their young deep in the forest and mainly feed them with newly-hatched insects in the spring. “Home cooking” for jays can include not only insects but also berries, seeds, animal carcasses and sometimes even other birds’ chicks – anything in the forest that is edible.