Monday, September 9, 2013

In Quest of the Blue Jay

by Julia Buckley

We don't get too many interesting birds on my street; aside from the little brown wrens and sparrows who show up to eat the food in my feeder, we get pairs of cardinals (always a day brightener) and some pigeons and, rarely, a hawk who has come far out of his territory looking for food. (We also get rabbits, who apparently like bird food).

But lately we've been hearing the call of the Blue Jay--that recognizable "Thief! Thief!" cry in which he identifies himself as a scavenger.  Blue Jays were always a common sight in the campgrounds of my childhood, where their blue wings would swoop in to check out campsite garbage cans or bits of bread dribbled by careless children.

But try as I might, I can't see the bird himself (right now there seems to be only one) and I am longing for that flash of blue.  His call woke me up this morning, but the leaves on our front mulberry tree still obscure any sight of birds within.

Jays are considered very intelligent birds, and while their diet consists of things like acorns, seeds, nuts, and corn, they will occasionally eat other things, even rarely stealing things from the nests of other birds.  They are so canny that they will occasionally mimic the cry of a hawk--either to test for the presence of an actual hawk in the area, or possibly to scare off other birds who would challenge them for food (wikipedia).

This is the cry that has been luring me out of sleep in the morning:

While Jays in the wild have not been observed using tools (as have Crows, now considered to be the most intelligent animals), they have used tools in captivity--"have been observed using strips of newspaper as tools to obtain food, while captive fledglings have been observed attempting to open the doors to their cages" (wikipedia).

I must admit that I miss the Blue Jay and many of the birds that I once saw regularly in my childhood travels.
I'm going to investigate ways that I can lure him out of his tree and watch that lovely azure flight which would feed my nostalgia and my creative soul.

The winner of the drawing for a copy of Gigi Pandian's Artifact is pibroch47. Please contact Gigi directly at gigi(at)gigipandian(dot)com.


Sheila Connolly said...

I have a backyard birdfeeder that I can watch from my kitchen window. This is in a fairly thickly settled area, so I don't get too many exotic birds. I know there's a resident family of cardinals; there are plenty of sparrows, a crested nuthatch or two, some mourning doves. But Blue Jays show up only occasionally, usually in pairs, making a lot of noise. I get the impression that they're bullies--they drive off any other birds who were hoping for some seed. But they don't stay long.

Sandra Parshall said...

We have plenty of blue jays. Want some? :-) They love peanuts, so maybe you should try offering those to lure your jay out of hiding.

We usually have a dozen or so jays around at any one time. We have many, many cardinals -- in winter I'll count as many as three dozen eating in our yard at one time. We have lots of goldfinches and red house finches, plus Carolina wrens, white breasted nuthatches, mourning doves (a big flock), pileated woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, red bellied woodpeckers, catbirds and robins aplenty in summer, titmice, Carolina chickadees, a small flock of crows, some house sparrows, white-throated sparrows... And I'm probably forgetting some birds. Oh, the noxious blackbirds, of course.

Julia Buckley said...

They are aggressive birds, but apparently sometimes that's a good thing--they scare off the predators.

Julia Buckley said...

Sandra, do they like peanuts in the shell? And can I just scatter them, or would I need to buy a standing feeder? (I only have hanging ones, but apparently the jays like standing).