Bird Identification – Blue Jay
This vivacious, dashing fellow, harsh-voiced and noisy, cannot be overlooked; for when a brightly coloured bird, about a foot long, roves about your neighbourhood with a troop of screaming relatives, everybody knows it. In summer he keeps quiet, but throws off all restraint in autumn. Hear him hammering at an acorn some frosty morning! How vigorous his motions, how alert and independent! His beautiful military blue, black and white feathers, and crested head, give him distinction.
He is certainly handsome. But is his beauty only skin deep? Does it cover, in reality, a multitude of sins? Shocking stories of murder in the song bird’s nest have branded the blue jay with quite as bad a name as the crow’s. The brains of fledglings, it has been said, are his favourite tid-bits. But happily scientists, who have turned the searchlight on his deeds, find that his sins have been very greatly exaggerated. Remains of young birds were found in only two out of nearly three hundred blue jays’ stomachs analysed. Birds’ eggs are more apt to be sucked by both jays and squirrels than are the nestlings to be eaten. Do you ever enjoy an egg for breakfast? Fruit, grain, thin-shelled nuts, and the larger seeds of trees and shrubs, gathered for the most part in Nature’s open store-room, not in man’s, are what the jay chiefly delights in; and these he hides away, squirrel-fashion, to provide for the rainy day. More than half of all his food in summer consists of insects, so you see he is then quite as useful as his cousin, the crow.
Jays are fearful teasers. How they love to chase about some poor, blinking, bewildered owl, in the daylight! Jay-jay-jay, you may hear them scream through the woods. They mimic the hawk’s cry for no better reason, perhaps, than that they may laugh at the panic into which timid little birds are thrown at the terrifying sound. A pet jay I knew could whistle up the stupid house-dog, who was fooled again and again. This same jay used to carry all its beech nuts to a piazza roof, wedge them between the shingles, and open them there with ease. An interesting array of hair pins, matches, buttons, a thimble and a silver spoon were raked out of his favourite cache under the eaves.