Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Blue Jays and Nuts
Name: Steve H.
Status: OTHER
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Saturday, April 20, 2002

we live in central lA. during later winter observe blue jays--usually male--gather whole unshelled pecans--place them in the ground sharp end down--then bang them into the ground with their beaks--the pecans are certainly too large to eat whole and too strong to break-- what are they doing this for? thanks

What an interesting observation! The jays are storing the nuts for future food. They can crack pecans relatively easily, probably easier than acorns which they also store. Usually jays store food in holes in trees or something similar, rather than in the ground. I wonder if they place them sharp end down to make it easier to get them in the ground or if their is an explanation that has less significance for bird intelligence. Jays, along with their close relatives the crows and ravens, seem to be about the smartest group of birds, and many tales of their intelligence appear to be valid. For an interesting fictional take on jay behavior see Mark Twain's short story, "Jim Baker's Blue Jay Yarn."

J. Elliott

Click here to return to the Zoology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory