For the Birds Radio Program: National Blue Jay Awareness Month:
Since there is a Blue Moon this month, we at “For the Birds” are celebrating with another National Blue Jay Awareness Month. This tradition is sponsored by Baker’s Blue Jay Blend—it’s unimpeachably delicious. Available only at Baker’s Blue Jay Barn, “Up the Shore a Ways.”
Blue Jays are one of the most beautiful birds on the planet—a British birder once said that if they were rare, people would travel across the globe to see them because they are so lovely.
Of course. Blue Jays are not at all rare in the eastern half of the continent, and despite their beauty, people pretty much take them for granted, never seeming to think about all the ways that Blue Jays have enriched our lives. For one thing, the spectacular oak forests that provide us with beautiful and strong lumber, cute little acorns, and lovely shade trees were in large part planted by Blue Jays. who carefully select healthy acorns, free of insects and diseases, with 88 percent accuracy. Jays cache their food by burying it under grass or in soft soil, covering it with a bit of plant debris. This holds the soil’s moisture in, increasing the probability that the acorn will germinate. Blue Jays have excellent memories and retrieve many of their stored seeds over the course of a winter, but they are also constantly searching for new sources of food, and during most winters they end up eating far fewer seeds than they hid. Perhaps it’s lucky coincidence or perhaps it’s due to a design of nature that Blue Jays plant for a bountiful future for themselves and those of us others who also love or use oak trees. They’re even credited with planting the oak, beech, and chestnut forests in the wake of retreating glaciers as the Ice Age ended.
Blue Jays also provide a vital service to other songbirds by yelling out a warning whenever any danger appears in their vicinity. Whether it’s a snake, coyote, or human, jays keep the whole forest informed about every approaching danger.
At Northland feeders, Blue Jays help broaden the spectrum of colorful birds, especially in winter when they ‘re the ONLY blue bird we see. They have lovely wing markings, a soft violet glow to their back feathers when the sunlight hits them just right, and big brown eyes set off to perfection by a ring of soft white feathers and a black eye line. That perky little crest is the icing on the cake. For some reason, birds with crests seem more vivacious and somehow exude more personality than most species. Wood Ducks, Pileated Woodpeckers, cardinals, waxwings, and our good old Blue Jay are among the few birds with this distinctive and handsome marking. Blue Jays use their crest as a form of body language, raising it high as a territorial or aggressive display, and lowering it when in a more passive or peaceful mode, using their crests the way we humans use our eyebrows.
If all this isn’t enough, Blue Jays have enriched our language with such vivid expressions as jay walking and naked as a jaybird. And Blue Jays figure prominently in American folklore. In the Southeast during the 1800s, Blue Jays were said to spend all day Friday delivering sticks to Satan and then were silent all day Saturday, pondering that hellish experience.
It would be hellish indeed to be on a planet devoid of Blue Jays. I agree with Robert Frost that “Earth’s the right place for love.” Earth’s also the right place for Blue Jays, nature’s perfect bird.