Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | News | Local News | Contact Us | Home RSS

MARTHA SEZ: Blue jays ... fascinating, just fascinating

March 2, 2018
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

My conversations about blue jays generally go like this:

Me: Why do people always use the words raucous and jeering when they're referring to blue jays?

Other person: Well, blue jays are not exactly melodious.

Me: Not everyone can be a songbird, you know. It's not their fault. I know people who actually shoot blue jays out of their bird feeders with a rifle. That's so mean.

Other person: Blue jays are mean to other birds.

Me: In my yard the birds all get along very nicely.

Other person: They plunder the nests of other birds and bite the babies' heads off.

Me: Oh.

Brief silence

Me: are you sure?

Other person: Yes.

Later I Google blue jays. Whatever.

Blue jays are forest dwellers who nest in tall coniferous trees. They wake up at sunrise. Quickly becoming bored, they head into town, jeering raucously, to see what everyone else is up to.

Jays are a lot less shy and elusive than you might expect forest dwellers to be. Probably they originally came from New York City, or maybe Bayonne. They flew up North on a hunting expedition and figured, what the hay, let's stay here. Just run the dumb pine siskins out of these conifers-easy cruising distance from some bird feeders-and we've got it made.

The feathers of blue jays do not provide good camouflage. In fact, they're pretty flashy.

If jays were humans, they'd be doing rude things like honking their car horns and yelling at you out the window. If they had hands, they'd be making insulting gestures. They are pretty much type A personalities. They'd be littering and taking up all of the parking spaces. Their car alarms would always be going off and if you complained they'd say So? Sue me.

I like blue jays. My friend G. D. thinks that this is due to one of the several flaws he has perceived in my character, to wit, my appreciation of troublemakers. I find them amusing. (My friend C. W. attributes my friendship with G. D. to the very same character flaw.)

The squirrels in my yard are smaller and seem less intelligent than the ones at my mother's feeder in Ann Arbor, but then they don't have the advantages of the University of Michigan campus. They scamper around all over the lawn, occasionally digging up some crocus bulbs, but they seldom get anywhere near the peanuts I throw out.

The blue jays, on the other hand, appear out of thin air as soon as I start throwing peanuts-in the shell, unsalted-out the kitchen window onto the porch roof or out the back door. One picks up peanuts in its beak one by one, hefting and comparing, until it's satisfied it has the biggest prize.

A different jay won't fly away until it has two peanuts. It has learned to select a smaller one first, ramming it as far into its craw as possible. Then it stabs another, larger peanut with its beak, which usually takes two or three tries. I'm not sure that either of these birds gets any more food than the thoughtless jays who repeatedly fly in, grab and fly off again in helter skelter fashion, but I admire their technique.

The jays arrive by stages, advancing from tree to tree, swooping down by turn, although at times there will be several on the ground. The other morning I could tell it was icy outside because every jay that landed went sliding across the porch roof. Nothing daunted, they went after the peanuts.

Nothing daunted, like jeering raucously, is a phrase that applies to blue jays.

Sometimes jays bluster at incoming competitors. They flap up into the air and bump chests. I see one bird chasing other jays around while carrying a peanut in its beak. They fly away, feigning alarm, but quickly return. Nothing daunted.

All of the peanuts disappear, the biggest ones first. The jays retire to trees to crack the shells and eat.

Once, by a serendipitous chance, a blue jay dropped a peanut and a squirrel got ahold of it. The squirrel hopped over to the garden, the blue jay hopping along right behind him. No sooner had the squirrel buried its prize and left the scene than the jay unearthed it and carried it away.

I think that if G. D. watched blue jays instead of his adorable humming birds-who are mean, too, by the way-he might learn something.

Have a good week!



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web