Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Arrogance and Beauty
I thought I knew all the sounds of a blue jay--a caw and a shriek both raspy and harsh. But a clutch of new jays have fledged from the next door oak, and have all this week been saturating the backyard---showing off their wider repertoire.
A fluty whistle was the first surprise. One short high syllable, followed by a long airy whistle, so like a hawk's that I looked up many times expecting and fearing to find one perched too close for comfort. Always it was a jay, looking full grown---sometimes performing its whistle while I watched, lest there be any doubt---as if to teach me how little I know.
They are not subtle, the jays. They demonstrated another sort of toot as well---a single hollow owly hoot on just one tone---no rising or falling, no waver or rasp. It's a tone I've heard often and have long wondered who made it. One mystery solved in exchange for another. If they can whistle nicely, why the more prominent and unpleasant caws?
Not that I've ever minded the raucous jays in the yard. Their visual beauty can not be denied. But why such a curious mix of poor manners and beautiful feathers. The parallel in the human world makes me wonder if it must exist in every society---and if it must, why?
One can always feel relieved not to be a beauty, as it improves one's chances of being kind. dkm