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Archive for the 'scrub jay' Category

With scrub jays, it’s all a matter of taste

Scrub jay, spicing up a peanut with a moth. Yum! Photo by Barbara Yencho, Martinez, CA.
1jay barbara yencho mtz

This is one of my scrub jays at work going after a peanut with a moth in its mouth.

I can’t say that I’ve ever tried this, but the combination must add a smooth aftertaste with just a hint of piquancy to mildly spike the flavor of an otherwise bland diet.  I think I’m impressed with my scrub jay.
Barbara Yencho, Martinez, California

Ah, yes … the scrub jay is a true gourmand. /Gary

Posted on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Under: scrub jay | No Comments »

Scrub jays duke it out to see who’s the toughest jay

Scrub jays fighting. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
1jayfight dave harper oakley

Here is a view from a fight as scrub jays have a knock down drag out battle …
Dave Harper, Oakley, California

Great photo! Male scrub jays are VERY territorial and I suspect that’s what’s going on. One male jay is trying to get the other male jay to move on and move on get off his turf. Of course jays never ask anything nicely. They just dive right into it. They’re pretty pushy. /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011
Under: Jays, scrub jay | 5 Comments »

Scrub jays eat ticks from backs of deer

Jay eats ticks on deer’s head. Photo by George Puterbaugh, Walnut Creek, CA
jay deer george puterbaugh wc

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a blue jay hopping on the back, neck and head of a deer and pecking out of the fur insects or something. I have only seen a similar act by birds in Africa working over a water buffalo. Is this unusual for this area?
George Puterbaugh, Walnut Creek, Calif.

It’s actually pretty common. About a year ago I answered a similar question in my newspaper column and immediately received a bunch of e-mails and letters from other readers who had observed jays hopping around on deer and pecking and feeding on ectoparasites (ticks, fleas, lice) in the same way as oxpeckers dine on the backs of large grazing animals in Africa.

I did a little research and found a couple of scientific papers reporting on “Observations of Scrub Jays Cleaning Ectoparasites from Black-Tailed deer” as far back as 1944. The deer appear to love it. They certainly don’t protest. /Gary

Posted on Monday, March 28th, 2011
Under: deer, scrub jay | No Comments »

Scrub jay, Charlie, eats peanuts from Sandy’s hand

Sandy and Charlie the scrub jay. Photo by Sandy from Pleasanton, CA.
charlie jay, sandy

Dear Gary:
Oh, my, did I love your story from Niall in Cyberspace today, April 14 (“Why is scrub jay tapping at my door?”).

My “Charlie” has been visiting me for about 3 years now.  It started with his inquisitive self and my putting peanuts on the table next to me when I was outside reading.  Then he took them from my hand, always touching/shaking them all until he chose the one he thought was best before flying off to bury it or eat it.
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Posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010
Under: scrub jay | 4 Comments »

Mighty oaks grow from little acorns … and scrub jays

My friend Brian of Walnut Creek, Calif., has a special way of looking at the land that we can all benefit from. He sees it through Mother Nature’s eyes.

A case in point. Brian is very much involved with the Walnut Creek Open Space Foundation and one of his special projects, among many, is to help plant oak trees in the Walnut Creek open space areas. Not by simply poking holes in the ground, dropping in acorns and kicking a little dirt over the top of the oak seeds.

No, nothing quite so complicated.
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Posted on Thursday, May 8th, 2008
Under: Acorns, Nature, Open space, scrub jay | No Comments »

Listen to the mockingbird

Sunday afternoon I was making myself a sandwich for lunch when I heard a commotion out in the backyard. A scrub jay screaming and a sharp-sounding "Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!" I carefully peeked out the family room window and spotted Mr. Blue sitting on the fence between my yard and my neighbor’s. The scrub jay was getting buzzed by a mockingbird.

The mocker would fly up to the roof of my house, sit for a moment, then dive straight down at the jay, striking it a glancing blow with its body. It would finish its dive by swooping up and landing on top of the Monterey pine on the other side of my back fence, and then turn around and complete the circuit again by landing on my roof.

This went on for about five minutes. One dive was so violent, the mockingbird almost knocked the jay off the fence. Curiously, it just sat there and screamed back at the mocker. I figured it would go after the mocker and peck its little heart out. Nope.

The jay was bigger than the mocker, but in the wild, it’s the aggressiveness of the animal that counts. If you’ve ever seen a mockingbird working over your cat, you know what I mean. I’ve lost count of the e-mails and letters I’ve received over the years, complaining about those "mean old mockingbirds" that are "hurting my poor kitty and terrifying it to death."

Fact of the matter is, a mockingbird couldn’t physically injure a cat if it tried (and believe me, they do try!).

As I said, it’s the aggressiveness of the bird that counts, and its ability to psych out other animals. Scrub jays are bigger than mockingbirds, and this one in particular, Mr. Blue, had been ruling the neighborhood for the last several years. But for once, it looked like he’d met his match. This mockingbird was totally working over that mean old grumpy scrub jay.

Looks like we have a new "King of Gary’s Backyard."

Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2006
Under: Mockingbird, scrub jay, wild birds | 6 Comments »

Super Hero Scrub Jay

Last evening I was standing in front of the sliding glass door to my back deck, watching the raindrops as they poured down out of the darkening skies and whipped and sprayed and splattered around the yard in the wind. Suddenly, our neighborhood scrub jay, Mr. Blue, swooped out of the wetness to make a splash landing in front of the door.

He stood there in the rain, a sopping wet, bedraggled, pitiful example of the species, as water dripped off the tip of his beak and joined the falling raindrops.

I turned to my son, Karl, who was heating himself a pan of soup on the stove. "Mr. Blue is willing to sell his soul for a peanut," I said.

"Wow, what happened to him?" Karl answered. "He looks like a wet sponge!"

At that point the cats, Tut and Newman, came trotting up to stare out the door at the drowning bird. The cats hate the jays. Being indoor cats, there’s no way they can ever get out and try to catch them and the jays know it. Mr. Blue and his cohorts do everything in their power to drive the cats crazy (and they do!). They peck on the windows, tap, tap, tapping at the cats’ chamber door, and they scream their harsh, rasping cries at the cats whenever they see them through the windows. Tut usually hides in the corner beside the door so he can’t see the jays, figuring out of sight, out of mind, but it doesn’t work because I can always hear him whining. This time, however, both cats clearly wanted to see what was going on. And enjoy it.

A soggy scrub jay standing out in the cold rain while the cats were sitting in a nice, warm kitchen was just too good to let pass. You ever see a cat grin? It’s not a pretty sight. You ever see a cat rolling around on the floor in hysterics? Scary.

While the cats were still rolling around in their little fit of hysteria and feline revenge, I quietly slid open the door and dropped a small handful of roasted, unsalted peanuts on the deck in front of Mr. Blue.

With a flick of his wings and a sudden violent shudder that shook every single drop of water off of his body, there was a great bright flash of blue light as Mr. Blue, The Blue Flash Super Hero Jay, appeared out of nowhere to stand tall and defiant … and dry … mere inches away from the suddenly attentive cats on the other side of the glass door.

The now incredibly beautiful jay picked up one of the peanuts (the biggest) in his beak and disappeared noisily into the depths of the redwood tree.

"NO!" screamed the cats as they both slunk away from the door. "NO! NO! NO!"

Karl shook his head a couple of times and turned back to finish fixing his soup.

"You know, nobody back at college would ever believe me if I told them about this place," he said.

Posted on Wednesday, December 28th, 2005
Under: Animals, Cats, Pets, scrub jay, wild birds, Wildlife | 2 Comments »