Thursday, February 19, 2015

Steller's Jay

Went for a walk yesterday, and what did I hear but that high whistling sound of a red-tailed hawk. Looked up to see it, and saw instead a Steller's Jay in the tree above me. It whistled again, then flew away.

Aha! I wonder how many other times in my walks along that lake I've thought I heard a red-tailed hawk, and really it was that Steller's Jay.

So I looked it up, and it turns out this isn't the only Steller's Jay who does this. Check it out:


And that's not the only mimicry these super-smart birds engage in:

And why do they do this? According to Birdnote:
"A raucous call and a bold flash of blue at your feeder means a jay has arrived. East of the Rockies, your visitor is quite likely a Blue Jay (left). Out west, you're probably seeing a Steller's Jay. These daring blue dandies sound the alarm, announcing the approach of a predator. Often the loud call sends the predator packing. If not, a family of jays may gang up and mob the intruder. And, if that doesn't work, the jay may mimic the call of a Bald Eagle or Red-tailed Hawk -- birds at the very top of the pecking order -- to dissuade the invader. "
And all of this reminds me of one of my favorite coffee-table books ever, "Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays."

I've had a copy of this book for years, and I love to pick it up and devour the photos and read bits and pieces again about these intelligent birds. I found a copy the other day at my local public library's Three-Dollar table of books people have donated, and quickly bought it. I told the librarian, "I can't believe anyone would give this book away!" (But then I did give it away, myself, to Don and Cassie.)

1 comment:

Jeff Wynn said...

High on the south ramparts of Mount Shasta several years ago I was walking when I heard the chittering sound of an angry squirrel. I looked around and didn't see it. I walked another 100+ meters and heard the angry squirrel sound again. I looked up just in time to see a Crow making that sound! He seemed embarrassed to be caught in the act and flew away. A few hundred meters farther on and I heard it again. He had followed me to "Fake the Squirrel" on me again.
I could swear he was laughing this time.