For the Birds Radio Program: Sneakers

Original Air Date: Sept. 20, 1991

What it like to have a Blue Jay loose in the house? 4:02 (Date confirmed)

Audio missing


The only thing better than a Blue Jay eating at your feeder is a Blue Jay eating at your dining room table. Sneakers the Blue Jay is developing table manners—at least, manners acceptable for a Blue Jay. His favorite food in the world is ice cream. He loves vanilla, chocolate, peach, and strawberry, the only four flavors we’ve tested him on so far. He snatches Cheerios and Froot Loops at breakfast time, loves peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and chooses vegetables at dinner. His favorite beverage is fruit punch.

Whenever we try a new food on Sneakers, he tastes it carefully, and swallows just one bite. He won’t touch another bite for ten minutes or so when, if he’s survived with no ill effects, he stops worrying and pigs out.

So far, the only human food that Sneaks has taken an absolute dislike to is bananas. He’s starting to learn that sunflower seeds are food. He used to just play with the seeds, but after I gave him some sunflower hearts and then cracked open some seeds with him watching, he got the idea. Blue Jay survival in the wild apparently depends a great deal on the young ones learning from the adults and each other.

Sneakers loves to take baths. Any puddle of water is enough to draw him in. I can’t leave a sinkful of dishes without him hopping in. Fortunately, Ivory dishwashing soap apparently doesn’t hurt Blue Jays. Last week when my five-year-old Tommy took his bath, Sneakers hopped right in the tub. He opened his wings and scooted along the top of the water. I fished him out, thinking he probably wanted me to, but he hopped right back in, much to Tommy’s delight. It isn’t every little boy who gets to bathe with Blue Jays.

Sneakers loves toys. His favorites are Joey and Tommy’s Hot Wheels–these cars are small enough for a jay to handle in its beak and the wheels run fast and easy, even on a carpet. He also delights in dropping things from heights just to watch them fall, like human babies do from their high chairs. Sometimes Sneaks drops a light piece of paper and then races to the floor to catch it before it hits. Another of his games is log rolling—he plays that with paper towel roll, and is getting pretty good at balancing. He can’t play the piano—the keys are too heavy for a bird who weighs only three ounces—but he’s darned good at typing on the computer. His words come out garbled and incomprehensible to me, but I suppose they may actually be sensible to a Blue Jay.

He’s very curious about books, and has actually learned to turn pages. Of course he prefers picture books—I doubt if he makes sense of the drawings but the colors seem to please him. I’m taking a biochemistry class right now, and he especially likes the color illustrations of proteins in my textbook.

Sneakers is curious about Fred the Nighthawk, but every time he approaches, Fred hisses at him. A nighthawk’s only protection is to open its big mouth and hiss when frightened. Fred’s big mouth sure alarms Sneaks, so the two of them pretty much ignore each other.

Sneaks doesn’t make as much of a mess in the house as you might think. I do have to scrub the window sills every couple of days and leave newspapers in strategic locations. And the blueberry stains in my white draperies seem to be permanent. I have learned to keep expensive items stored away, but not until Sneaks gouged a few holes in the spongey microphone cover of our videocamera. I guess a little controllable mess is worth it just to have a Blue Jay light on my shoulder and keep me company while I study and do my work. All in all, having a Blue Jay in the house is a pretty neat deal.