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Jay Play

After discovering the food-color preference of jays, try to change this preference by salting the food of that color.

Group Size: maximum of about 10 kids per leader

Suggested Age: 10 and up

Time: Variable—depends on the birds Can be done in multiple sessions

  • Site: a place where at least five jays readily go where you can have a highly visible bait station
  • Safety: No special concerns
  • Prep: Cook macaroni and dye some four different colors
  • Materials: data board and marker, plastic produce bags, salt, other flavorings, mixing containers, paper towels, stick or spoon for mixing, watch, Action Cards.

Focus question:
What color of macaroni will jays prefer? Is it possible to change this preference? Will the jays remember their new preference?

Learning outcomes:
  • The jays have a color preference for their food.
  • It is possible to change this preference by changing the taste of the food.
  • The jays will remember the changed taste and will avoid the distasteful color in the future.

This is a good activity for multiage or family groups as well as same-age groups. The activity is based on observation of bird behavior. Because the activity requires patience, it is a good activity for a lunch or rest period when the group is relatively quiet. The birds sometimes need time to discover the different colors of macaroni. The participants then collect data related to the preference of the birds. The participants then experiment to see if this preference can be changed.



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