and Bird Fancier
The poet, Emily Dickinson, seemed to have held the blue jay in high regard. Regrettably, I don't share her admiration of the colorful crow.
I remember when I was a young boy of ten or so watching a group of blue jays attack a squirrel who ventured too close to one of their young who had fallen from the nest. An admirable quality, I thought, protecting one's young. However, after what I witnessed this morning, I am not so sure that is what they were doing. The angry birds may have just been engaging in some pre-luncheon bloodsport.
This past winter as I was settling into my new home, I set up a bird feeder, three squirrel feeders, and a bird bath just outside of the living room picture window where I sit and type. The show is different everyday and always entertaining - sometimes to the point that it interferes with my work. I have had a never-ending stream of sparrows, wrens, doves, cardinals, and little blue birds feasting at Pa Rock's Bird Stop. Robins will occasionally stop by for a drink or a bath - robins are carnivores and won't stoop to nibbling birdseed.
One bird that did not show up, at least not initially, was the hardy Ozark blue jay. I remembered blue jays as being thick in my youth and wondered what had become of them. Then one day, in a sad case of being careful what you wish for, one showed up. He had such a grand time that he invited others, and for the past couple of weeks there have been four at the feeder most days. The jays are also big drinkers and really enjoy the birdbath.
Great fun, I thought.
My positive opinion of the blue jays changed abruptly this morning while I was sitting at the computer checking my email. I heard a fuss out under the maple tree that hosts the bird feeder and looked up to see a blue jay pecking angrily at something he had pinned to the ground. A little brown wing flapped into view and I realized that the jay was terrorizing a smaller bird - probably a sparrow. I rapped my knuckles on the window and the aggressive bird let go of his prey - momentarily - and the little bird tried to hobble away. The blue jay, however, was having none of that - or none of me either for that matter - and he immediately jumped back on the little bird and began pecking him with a vengeance.
This ends here, I thought, racing out the door and onto the front porch, but Mr. Blue Jay was still in charge. As soon as I appeared, he snatched up his breakfast in his beak and flew away.
What the hell?
I came back in the house and googled blue jays where I quickly learned that in addition to vegetation, they also like a little red meat in their diet. In fact, some of the sources said that a third of a blue jay's diet might be made up of bugs, rodents, and smaller birds.
(There are three at the feeder as I write this, along with a few smaller birds and a woodpecker. The woodpecker seems to be the only one who isn't intimidated by the blue-feathered gang members, and he may just be stupid.)
The blue jay is a close relative of the crow. I am beginning to understand where the collective noun, a "murder" of crows, comes from.
I comprehend a bit about how nature works and know that everything serves a purpose in life's pecking order - so I will tolerate the occasional murderous blue jay. Almost a decade ago while I was living in a second story apartment in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, where I had a very busy bird feeder on the balcony, all activity ceased one afternoon when a hawk suddenly showed up and planted himself on the railing next to the feeder.
The hawk, now there is a majestic predator. He is the Mafia don to the blue jay's street corner thug. Miss Dickinson's ink would have been put to far better use by memorializing the hawk instead chirping the praises of the meanest bastards at the feeder.
Here is what Emily Dickinson had to say about blue jays:
The Blue Jay
by Emily Dickinson