Saturday, February 21, 2009

Jokesters of the Bird World

I find that people tend to love or hate blue jays. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground. Those that hate them do so because they are aggressive and sometimes predate the young of other birds. Those of us who love them do so because they are bright, brash and beautiful. They are curious and intelligent. They are also good mimics.

Yesterday the afternoon was gorgeous. Warm but not too warm; with bright sunshine and a light breeze. The cupboards were bare, so I decided to leave work a little early to go to the grocery and couldn't resist a short stop at River Bend Nature Center to walk the trails before going home. Although the afternoon isn't the best time to bird, I of course, carried my binoculars. You just never know.

I was walking the trail, enjoying the weather and the scenery when I heard an odd call. It was like an American Phoebe but with a different dialect--a little softer in tone and a the second tone a little lower. I decided it wasn't a phoebe, but I sure wanted to know what it was. I could hear two birds calling to one another--one several yards away, and the other nearby, above my head. You've probably guessed--it was a blue jay, and probably his friend, calling in a completely atypical call for them. I could watch the blue jay above my head make the call, so there is no doubt just who it was.

In the fall I had heard the call of a Mississippi Kite after the kites left for the winter and discovered a blue jay producing it. We also had a jay at Wild Bird Rescue this past year that would imitate the ringing of the phone in order to get one of the volunteers to go back into the room. When they left, he would make the ringing sound; when they came into the room, he would stop. Rather like a small child and the "uh-oh" game they all learn--dropping things off their high chair tray so we adults can retrieve them.

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