For the Birds Radio Program: Home Construction II

Original Air Date: Aug. 16, 1991

What kind of heavy equipment do Blue Jays like better, a backhoe or a cement truck? 3:49 date verified

Audio missing


This is the time of summer when baby Blue Jays join up with migratory flocks. My babies, Jake and Sneakers, spent some time with a big flock last weekend, but weren’t at all impressed. They much prefer being indoors, and after a Merlin started hanging out in my backyard, I decided that maybe they could spend much of their days inside. Usually they have pretty much run of the house. I keep newspapers strategically located under all their favorite perches, and overall they don’t make much more of a mess than my kids do.

But the Blue Jay routine changed when Builder’s Commonwealth’s crew started knocking out walls to build an addition on our house. The first day, I kicked the jays outside for the day, but they squawked and yelled and made me feel like a negligent mother until I let them back in. But to keep from getting underfoot I banished them to the back bedroom, which serves as out TV and play room. When they got hungry, they squawked for me, but the rest of the time they were surprisingly quiet. I started worrying that the hammers and power saws and heavy equipment were frightening them, so I peeked into the room. There they were, side by side, sitting at the window closest to the ruckus, studying the workers as they demolished our back entry room. The jays’ curiosity about the workers seemed mutual—although construction workers are used to a gathering of neighborhood kids and grownups watching them work, they apparently don’t often see Blue Jays studying them through a window.

The jays’ curiosity grew with the noise of the equipment. When the backhoe started digging out the foundation, the jays were riveted to the windowsill the whole time, their heads constantly moving, following the hoe up and down and to the sides like spectators at a tennis match. And when the cement truck came to lay the frost fittings, Jake paid attention even longer than my kids did. Heavy equipment of all kinds holds a powerful fascination for children, and apparently for Blue Jays, too.

After a while, the jays started getting restless, and wanted to come out of the playroom. I thought they could use some fresh air and sunshine, so I brought them out the front door and let them go, but both of them beat me back through the door. So I carried them all the way to the yard and set them in their favorite box elder tree. But they started squawking so loud that even the guys hammering on the roof noticed. Being the kind of mother who believes all her children need at last a little sunshine every day, I left them out about an hour, until I spotted the Merlin. By then the baby jays were hopping around on the driveway watching roof shingles dropping down near them. I knew that the next stage in their curiosity might be their last, so I brought them back into the playroom.

Every time I go into the play room, my dog Bunter follows me. I’ve inadvertently locked her in there with the jays a few times. I come back to find Sneaks and Jake playing tug of war with the hairs on her tail or pulling fur out of her back. Once I came in and saw Bunter sitting patiently but dejectedly as Sneaks, perched on her snout, was reaching down and curiously sticking his beak in her nostrils. No dog should suffer such an indignity.

In a week or two, the playroom walls will come a tumbling down, and I’ll have to jay-proof another room until the work is finished. Meanwhile, my ong-suffering dog is starting to avoid the playroom, while my husband is gracefully tolerating the spattered sheet on the playroom sofa and Blue Jays sitting on his shoulders when he tries to change a lightbulb.