My dad, my dog Bounder, and I recently visited the Middle Bear Picnic Area in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. As I walked towards the picnic tables, I noticed a Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina) flying from tree to tree, always just over my head. The low-flying Mexican Jay was soon joined by another and then another, and soon I had a whole flock of Mexican Jays in the trees above me. It wasn't too difficult to guess what they wanted, so we tossed them a few of the Cheetos from our lunch.
Despite their artificial fluorescent orange color, the Mexican Jays recognized the Cheetos as food and eagerly snatched them up.
My dog Bounder was a bit upset at all of this because he adores Cheetos and any that fall on the ground are usually his. Poor Bounder had to sit there and watch the Mexican Jays steal all of his ground Cheetos.
Alarmingly, I saw a Mexican Jay swallow one of the Cheetos whole, but somehow the Mexican Jays managed to eat all of their Cheetos without choking.
Just like humans, the Mexican Jays were not satisfied with just one or two Cheetos and kept hanging around the picnic site hoping for more. We didn't have any more food to share because we were saving the rest for later in the day, so we put away the food, and my dad wandered off to look for other birds, while I walked Bounder a short distance away.
I soon heard a rustling noise at our picnic table and turned around. A Mexican Jay had opened our Cheetos bag and was peering inside. Another Mexican Jay was snooping around in our open camera bag. Mexican Jays were all over our picnic area looking for more of those delicious fluorescent orange treats. I walked back over to rescue our remaining Cheetos, and the Mexican Jays flew back up into the trees, where they waited expectantly.
We then packed up our stuff and walked a short distance away to look for wildflowers. When we returned, some new picnickers had arrived at our former table. As I walked past them, I heard the picnickers remark about the unusual number of bluejays. I looked up and noticed that the Cheetos raiding party of Mexican Jays were still lurking in the trees over the table, where they were greedily eyeing the picnickers' food (no Cheetos).