Bird Photography Begs For Really Long Lenses

January 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Blue-Jay at Sunrise Feeding - 1/4/17Blue-Jay at Sunrise Feeding - 1/4/17 During the winter months, I set up bird feeders and bird baths to help the birds out a little bit.  I cleaned up an area near my cabin to hang the feeders, set up a blind to watch and photograph the birds, and learn more about the behaviors for each species.  You can view my bird feeder images in my bird-feeder gallery and you can also view my latest bird images that are in the wild.   

I host a wildlife gallery where I share my best photos of birds and mammals.  I try and keep the gallery to 24 or less photos and I continually replace the weaker images with better ones over time.  It takes a long time to even get 10 very strong wildlife photos.  

The photo of this Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) was taken at the feeders that I built specifically for Blue Jays.  It turns out that other birds like the Goldfinch and Sparrows eat from it too.  Blue Jays like to eat out of a feeder that is flat and open.  I built this feeder out of cedar, so it will last many years.  Blue Jays are quick to fly off the moment they sense anything that may appear dangerous or threatening to them.  Blue Jays like peanuts and black-oil sunflower seeds.  I stock the feeder every evening at sunset and then I get outside as the sun is rising to watch them.  

I photographed this Blue Jay with the Nikon D500 and 200-500mm F5.6 lens at 500mm.  This is an effective focal length of 750mm.  In theory that sounds like a lot of lens, but when photographing birds you feel like you never have enough focal length.  

I photographed this Blue Jay from my front porch, 34 yards (102 feet/31 meters away) using the D500 and long lens at 750mm.  Take a look at the full size image highlighting the crop to create the photo at the top of this article.  You can instantly see how short the 750mm of focal length feels when photographing birds.  

There are only two choices for filling up the frame a little more when photographing birds.  You can invest in longer telephoto prime lenses, which are very expensive and out of the reach of most amateurs, or you can get closer to the birds and use the lenses that you currently own.  I actually use both approaches.  Honing your skills to get closer to the birds is a lot of fun and very rewarding.  I always keep my portable blind with me at all times because I never know when I may need it.  I made the investment in the Nikon 600mm prime telephoto lens and I use mobile hunting blinds to get as close as possible to the birds when viewing and photographing them.  


Blue Jays make a variety of musical sounds, and they can do a remarkable imitation of the scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk. Not always conspicuous, they slip furtively through the trees when tending their own nest or going to rob the nest of another bird.

Oak and pine woods, suburban gardens, groves, towns. Breeds in deciduous or mixed woods, avoiding purely coniferous forest. May be in fairly low or scrubby forest in southern part of range. Favors habitat with many oak or beech trees. Often common in well-wooded suburbs or city parks.

Feeding Behavior
Forages in trees and shrubs and on ground. Comes to feeders for seeds or suet. Pounds on hard nuts or seeds with bill to break them open. Will harvest acorns and store them in holes in ground.

Omnivorous. Most of diet is vegetable matter (up to 75% of diet for year, higher percentage in winter), including acorns, beechnuts, and other nuts, many kinds of seeds, grain, berries, small fruits, sometimes cultivated fruits. Eats many insects, especially caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, and others; also eats spiders, snails, birds' eggs, sometimes small rodents, frogs, baby birds, carrion, other items.

4-5, sometimes 3-7. Greenish or buff, sometimes pale blue, spotted with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents (but female does more), about 16-18 days. Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest 17-21 days after hatching.

Courtship may involve aerial chases; male may feed female. Blue Jays become quiet and inconspicuous around the nest, but will attack with loud calls if the nest is threatened by a predator. Nest site is in tree (either coniferous or deciduous), placed in vertical crotch of trunk or at horizontal fork in limb well out from trunk; usually 8-30' above ground, sometimes 5-50' up. Nest (built by both sexes) is a bulky open cup made of twigs, grass, weeds, bark strips, moss, sometimes held together with mud. Nest is lined with rootlets and other fine materials, often decorated with paper, rags, string, or other debris.

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