For the Birds Radio Program: Thanksgiving Pileated and Oil of Ojay
Thanksgiving morning this year was an auspicious one at the Erickson house. We were inaugurating a new window feeder—my husband and kids had built it for my birthday. It’s right on the cutting edge of bird feeder technology. Rather than a wooden bottom, it has window screening to provide better drainage. The screening is supported by three wooden beams, an important feature considering how many squirrels we get. And sure enough, the first creature to light in the feeder that morning was a gray squirrel. We were having fun with this new close-up view of how squirrels crack open the sunflower seed shells and take out the meat, when what to our wondering eyes should appear but an enormous male Pileated Woodpecker.
Naturally, he wasn’t about to land in the feeder, but he did sample every tree in the yard—the maple, box elder, aspen, balsam, birch, and ash, and he also stopped on the ugly old apple tree stumps we’ve been sparing for just such an occasion. Koni Sundquist, in Duluth’s East End, also had a pileated last week—they often turn up in town after hunting season. Pileateds eat insects that have attacked diseased trees. With Dutch elm disease and so many sick birches and spruces in much of the Northland, along with the accelerated aspen heart rot in the countryside, pileateds are actually becoming rather common in our cities and towns.
It’s not hard to tell male from female Pileateds—just look at the red crest. If the red feathers start at the base of the beak, it’s a boy. If the feathers at the base of the beak are black, and the red doesn’t begin until up on the crown, then it’s a female. Also, the lower mustache mark on males is red—it’s black on females.
Pileateds are impressive, measuring a foot-and-a-half long, and weighing up to a full pound. Their bright red crest sets off their black and white plumage to perfection. And, speaking of crests, here’s Jim Baker with a message from Baker’s Blue Jay Barn:
This is Jim Baker, and I’ve got a question for you. How come every time I turn on the tube, I hear women in their thirties and forties earnestly talking into the TV camera about how they have no desire to grow old gracefully. They’d rather waste their money buying face cream they hope’ll turn back the clock? Now that really ticks me off. Don’t those people realize just how lucky they are? Most Blue Jays don’t live long enough to see their first birthday. And the oldest wild Blue Jay on record made it only to fifteen—its whole life amounted to less than half of those frivolous ladies who waste what time they do have gripin’ about a few wrinkles. You’ll never see a Blue Jay complaining into a camera about getting old. No way, HoJay.
It’s just not fair that Blue Jays get such a short time on this earth. It made me so mad thinking about it that I got to work and came up with something that will really turn the clock back for your jays. My Oil of Ojay will protect your jays’ tender skin from pollution and from the sun’s harmful rays shining through that hole in the ozone. It’ll thicken their bones to withstand the hardest picture window, reinforce their beaks and claws so they can win against the hungriest cat or Sharp-shinned Hawk, and add enough insulating fat to keep ‘em warm when the mercury dips to forty below.
Yep—give your jays the chance to grow old gracefully, with Oil of Ojay, available only at Baker’s Blue Jay Barn—up the shore a ways.