Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baby Blue Jay

This darling little baby is a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). They are native to the United States and seem to be spreading their range each year. Many people do not like these aggressive, gregarious birds. Mainly for their tendency to "rob" nests of other more gentle, pleasant song birds. Blue Jays are opportunistic feeders, they will eat most anything that won't eat them first. Insects, seeds, berries, eggs of other birds, as well as baby birds themselves. They are a fairly large bird, reaching lengths up to 9 inches from the tail to beak. Their wingspan is roughly 17 inches. These birds are unmistakable, and can not be confused with any other species in the Midwest, with bright blue, black and white coloring and that lavender/ blue crest, and a black ring around their neck. No other species looks anything like it. While we have many blue species of birds in Missouri like, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Bluebird, and Indigo Buntings, none have the size or distinct coloring of the Blue Jay. This blue coloration is actually caused by light refraction, just like all other birds with blue wings. If the wing were to be destroyed or crushed the blue coloring would disappear. The vocalization skills of Blue Jays is only limited to each individual. They use many different calls and songs. They are even capable of mimicking human speech. These birds are typically the sentinel, warning other birds in a given area of danger. They call loudly in a squawking fashion. I know from hiking in the woods, that as soon as Blue Jays know you are nearby they begin calling loudly for every bird within a mile radius to hear, announcing to each one your presence. So much for bird watching! So while all these charming traits can make for one aggravating bird, I can't help but like them. I have several pairs that nest each year in our trees. They come down to the feeders and while the other birds are quick to leave, I've not noticed any untoward behavior on the Jays part. As soon as the Jay moves on the smaller birds return and all is well again. Their coloring brightens the landscape and often times their antics are fun to watch. The other night one was chasing and scolding our dog Lila. It landed on the picnic table, wings out, squawking loudly and running at the dog. For a second or two I couldn't figure out why this bird was attacking our dog so ferociously. Then I noticed the baby that Lila had under her paw. I rescued the baby (pictured), and put Lila in her pen so that the parent Jay could return to her baby and ease her worries that her offspring was fine. Fortunately Lila didn't damage the baby in any way, she merely scared the tar out of it. I then discovered that three babies had fledged the nest and were bouncing all over the back yard. The poor adult Jays had their work cut out for them keeping track of these darlings. Each one bounced off in a different direction. Kind of like raising teenagers!

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