For the Birds Radio Program: Once in a Blue Moon: National Blue Jay Awareness Month
January 1999 has a blue moon, meaning this month has two full moons. The last blue moon was two and a half years ago, in July 1996, and before that in September, ‘93. But blue moons are irregularly spaced—the next one will be this March, in just two months. So something that happens “once in a blue moon” may be unexpected but is still more common than something that happens in “a coon’s age,” since wild raccoons can live to be 13-16 years old.
I actually know of only one thing that really happens once in a blue moon—National Blue Jay Awareness Month. This event, proclaimed by me since no one else would, is designed to show people why Nature’s Perfect Bird really is perfect. Of course, all birds are perfect in their own way. How could the planet keep spinning without chickadees, mockingbirds, cardinals, and robins? The Blue Jay, found throughout most of the United States and Canada, is pretty and big and noisy enough to make its presence known to just about everyone, but of course, mockingbirds, cardinals, and robins do that, too. In return, we’ve named those three species the official state bird in a total of 15 states. The diminutive Black-capped Chickadee makes its tiny presence known through sheer exuberance and cuteness, and it too has been honored by being named state bird of Maine and Massachusetts. But no state has so honored the Blue Jay. Quite the opposite, people disparage the Blue Jay as a nest robber and a noisy nuisance. Blue Jays do steal a nestful of baby robins now and then, virtually always to feed their own hungry babies, but by warning all birds within hearing range of more dangerous predators, jays have saved many more robin lives than they’ve taken. When a jay flies into a feeding station, many times the other birds scatter out of fear, but I think this is only because the shape of a Blue Jay is so similar to that of a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Once the birds realize it’s just a jay, they quickly return, and at feeders, Blue Jays are actually very peaceful and sedate. Mark Twain’s favorite bird is much better than most people realize.
So we’ll take the opportunity during this fresh new year to take a fresh new look at the Blue Jay, Nature’s Perfect Bird. National Blue Jay Awareness Month is sponsored by Baker’s Blue Jay Blend, building better Blue Jay bodies twelve ways.