For the Birds Radio Program: Blue Jays and Eurasian Jays, and Baker's Blue Jay Board Games

Original Air Date: Dec. 19, 1990

Where does the word “jay” come from? Laura talks about Blue Jays in our lives, and Jim Baker hawks Baker’s Blue Jay board games.

Duration: 3′24″


Of all the birds in North America, Blue Jays have influenced our language and culture as much as any. Some authors claim that the word “jay” is onomatopoeic for the call of the Blue Jay, but that’s just not true—European jays were called “jays” for centuries before English-speaking settlers came to America, and the jays of Great Britain and Europe don’t sound anything like they’re saying Jay! Jay!

Actually, the word “jay” comes from the French word geai. The origin is unknown, but many etymologists believe the word is a nickname form of the Roman name Gaius.

Being closely related to crows and ravens, which means they’re intelligent and responsive to humans, European jays were long kept in captivity as pets. Even wild ones were easy to see, being found in gardens as well as more remote woodlands. European jays are attractive birds, but not as strikingly beautiful as Blue Jays. They’re a soft pinkish color with big blue and white patches on their wings, and pale blue eyes. They can puff out their head feathers to form a crest, but they don’t sport the jaunty pointed crest of our own Blue Jay. European settlers were so taken with Blue Jays when they came here that they shot and killed hundreds to ship back home to decorate fashionable houses.

And speaking of fashionable houses, here’s a word from Jim Baker, of Baker’s Blue Jay Barn:

This is me, Jim Baker. Wanna make something of it? You know, winter is a hard time for Blue Jays. When the weather’s nice, they spend their days searching out food and water supplies. The lucky ones near a feeder get a few minutes here and there to cuss out owls and play practical jokes on each other. But the minute an ice storm hits or the temperature drops to 20 below, those jays hole up in a spruce tree, biding their time till conditions improve. It gets mighty unpleasant sitting out a blizzard—I know. Before my jays trusted me well enough to move into my barn, I used to sit out there with them.

Last winter, my jays were suffering from cabin fever something fierce, and I needed something to keep them occupied. They couldn’t get the hang of shuffling a pinochle deck, they kept stealing the eyes off my Mr. Potato Head, and I just couldn’t make them see the point behind Monopoly.

That’s when I came up with Baker’s Blue Jay Board Games. Yep—there are 87 different games to choose from, all guaranteed to keep a whole family of jays entertained during the longest winter storm. In my version of Mousetrap, for instance, the winner catches and eats a real mouse. Playing Blue Jay Pursuit, your jays can show off their knowledge of important trivia, like how wide an owl opens its mouth, the best month for finding ripe acorns, and how many baby robins it takes to feed a family of seven for three weeks. They’ll have fun playing Clue. Who killed poor Mr. Jay? Was it Professor Partridge, Colonel Muskrat, or Mrs. Peacock? And for quiet evenings after the little fledglings finally go to bed, see how much fun those Blue Jay parents can have playing a round or two of my new adults-only game, Naked as a Jaybird.

Yep. Keep your jays entertained this winter with Baker’s Blue Jay Board Games—available only at Baker’s Blue Jay Barn, up the shore a ways.