Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Unjustly Maligned Bluejay

A small oak tree grows beside the deck of the villa where I'm writing and hangs over the marsh. It spits tiny acorns on the deck and attracts bluejays, who have a fondness for acorns. So it is that the bluejays and I have become friends this month, however one-way the affection.

Despite being much maligned for their unpleasant cawing and their reputation for nest-robbing, bluejays offer a striking kind of beauty to the world, with their distinctive combination of blue, black, and white feathers, and I've long wondered at their ability to mimic a hawk's whistle. I've often heard them give a pretty kind of hoot at home, not raspy or ugly at all.

Now, watching the Fripp bluejays at close range across these winter weeks has given me a new appreciation for their behavior, as well. They come in a group of three or four, perhaps a family, to perch on the banister in search of acorns. They hold the acorns in their feet to strip the cap and crack open the meat with their beaks.  They take turns hopping to the chair on the deck that holds rainwater in its seat.  They take long draws of water through their bills, like straws, then lift their heads to swallow.  Their neck feathers bounce as their throats open and close, allowing the water to trickle into their bodies.

No raspy calls here, only contented sorts of coos as they enjoy their meals together.  Their crests are as often down as up, and they are civil to each other, taking fair turns at the puddle in the chair.  This morning one flew to the banister out of the marsh with a tiny crab flailing in its beak, then off to enjoy it somewhere else.

On the Cornell Laboratory site, http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Blue_jay/lifehistory/ac,  I was thrilled to learn their reputation for stealing eggs is grossly exaggerated.  And their raspy caws are not just bad manners, but warnings to their own and other species of pending danger. Not only that, they are credited with the regular distribution of oak trees across the eastern half of the U.S.

I'm sorry I misjudged them, in a past blogpost called Arrogance and Beauty.  What I called "bad manners" were more likely deeds of social justice. I was, of course, the danger they warned against. So they were wrong too. I would never harm them. But once again, the more I learn the more I discover how errant my guesses can be. It's lovely to discover I can spend the last third of my life respecting the handsome bluejays in my backyard. dkm


NicoleB said...

I love Bluejays - glad you changed your opinion about them :)

Jane Robertson said...

I really enjoyed this post. Loved the description of the Bluejays drinking. I looked up the web reference - such a beautiful colour (we don't have Bluejays).

In the same way we can make judgements about people before we really get to 'know' them. Always good to be reminded of this!

Pukeko G said...

Thats great .. we have all learnt something thankyou .. though my concern is you have specified you only have a third of your existence left !? Thats pretty exact.

dkm said...

:-) Okay---second HALF of my life---but I'll never tell how old THAT would make me when I let go of my branch.

Niki said...

I googled. They are beautiful. I love the cool dude topknot. :)

'let go of my branch' hehe I shall remember that one!

I hope you enjoyed your kiwi wine.

dkm said...

And here, it's hard to imagine a day without seeing countless "cool dude" bluejays--I will forever call them that in my head. :-) Perfect.

Those kiwis know how to ferment a grape!