For the Birds Radio Program: Jake and Sneakers (Placeholder)

Original Air Date: Sept. 16, 1991

How are Laura Erickson’s baby Blue Jays doing? 3:54

Audio missing


Wherever I go, people ask me how the baby Blue Jays I raised this summer, Jake and Sneakers, are doing. Apparently people find it somewhat curious that I have Blue Jays flying loose in my house.

Jake, who was the more fully developed bird when they came, has decided that he prefers to be wild. Not completely wild–he stops by most days for a snack and some good conversation, but he manages to keep his independence, sort of like a neighborhood tom cat. I can recognize Jake even without my glasses on because he makes several unusual calls, including whistles and chatters in the same rhythm as a Dr. Seuss story. Jake visits at last on other house in the neighborhood for treats, but he doesn’t alight on other people anymore. He’s turning into a sensible jay. He also doesn’t land on the ground when he’s outside.

But every once in a while when I whistle to him, Jake hops on my arm and insists on being brought inside. Every time he does it I know he’s zonked out, because the moment he comes in he flies to his favorite perch on one of my stereo speakers and goes right to sleep. He naps soundly for an hour or so and then scopes out the changes that the builders are making to our addition, comments on everything he sees, plays with the Legos or Hot Wheels cars on the living room floor for a while, and then hops on the window sill or the door to be let out again. Jake doesn’t come in at night any more, and he was out during the entire rainy spell last weekend. Although he likes an occasional visit to “sivilization,” Jake, like Huck Finn, needs to light out for the territory when things get too comfortable.

Sneakers, on the other hand, much prefers the comforts of home. One morning, not ten minutes after I let him out, he sat on the front porch squawking to beat the band until I let him in again. If there were accurate English translations of Blue Jay talk, I’m sure what he was saying was, “What kind of mother are you? Don’t you know there are hawks out here?” The many dangers of the real world ore obviously much too stressful for Sneakers. He always takes a nap after being in the great outdoors.

Anyway, when he’s inside, Sneakers has to be kept in a cage at least part of the time, because the construction work is making it impossible to confine him to a single bird-proofed room. I feel uneasy keeping any wild bird in a cage, so I let Sneaks out whenever I can. Before the addition was enclosed, Sneaks sometimes flew out the open window openings or the opening between the roof and the plywood shell. The problem was, once he got out, he didn’t know how to get back in. Birds are constitutionally unable to go from a lighted space into darkness, and the inside of the house looked just too dark from the sunny outside. So he’d sit out on the roof and squawk or whistle or chatter until somebody—me or a workman or one of my kids—called him to let him in. Sometimes Sneaks does enjoy a good prowl. He can disappear for hours at a stretch, but he knows where home is.

Although we keep him in the cage part of the time, for much of the day Sneaks is loose in the house. He loves to hide things—one time I took a nap in the playroom while he and Jake were loose, and when I woke up, my hair was filled with kernels of Green Giant frozen corn which they had tucked away. We’re starting to find Legos buried in plant pots, My Little Ponies hidden in between the folds of the curtains, and sunflower seeds tucked into the bindings of books.

All in all, having a Blue Jay in the house makes for some interesting times.