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Jay Facts You Might Not Know
By Kyle Carlsen
Contributor | Bird Watcher's Digest
Blue jays often get a bad rap. Yes, these birds are loud and aggressive, but they are also intelligent and beautiful. Have you ever stopped to look at the intricate coloring on a blue jay? Those dazzling patterns of white, black, gray, and various shades of blue are well worth a second look. Steller's jays are equally stunning, sporting a combo of charcoal and deep blue. Both species are fairly common in woodland habitats within their respective ranges, with blue jays in the East and Steller's jays in the West, and both can be attracted to backyard feeders with peanuts and other foods. Are you ready to raise a ruckus about these raucous birds? Take our quiz and see what you know about jays!
Which Major League Baseball team was once known as the Blue Jays?
a) Boston Red Sox
b) St. Louis Cardinals
c) Philadelphia Phillies
d) Texas Rangers
Blue jays and Steller's jays make a variety of sounds, and they can imitate the calls of raptors, including what species in particular?
a) Golden eagle
b) Red-shouldered hawk
c) Sharp-shinned hawk
d) Broad-winged hawk
What are blue jays' favorite foods?
a) Insects and nuts
b) Snakes and lizards
c) Fruit and nectar
d) Eggs and nestlings
For whom was Steller's jay named?
a) Warren Steller
b) Georg Steller
c) Ben Steller
d) Max Steller
Blue jays are known to collect hundreds or even thousands of what?
True or false?
Blue jays and Steller's jays are the only North American jays with crests.
True or false?
Blue jays don't migrate.
Contributor | Watching Backyard Birds
Sometimes what you see is not what is really there.
Many folks will read that sentence, shrug, and assume, quite reasonably, that there has been a snag in the editing process or that the writer's cider has begun to turn.
Stay with me. Bird watching, like any specialized activity, has its own, sometimes confusing rules. How can it be true that what you see sometimes isn't what is actually there?
The answer is that migration, which appears to be a simple concept on the surface, is actually an immensely complicated process. Migration is widely understood to be the movement of birds from one place to another. We see migration every year in our yards: Sparrows and finches arrive from the North in the fall and leave in the spring. Geese fly overhead going north and south as the season dictates. So do hawks. Simple.
The big picture, however, obscures the complexity. Take, for example, a familiar species like the American goldfinch.
For many of you, the goldfinch is a daily visitor to the backyard chow line. Some readers have a few and some have small armies of goldfinches, but in almost every part of the continent goldfinches are regular visitors, even in the summer.
Let's assume you have a flock of about a dozen. Each day they are there, cheerfully elbowing each other for the best seat at the table. They are entertaining and reliable. Because the size of the flock does not seem to change much from day to day, it is natural to assume that you have acquired the affection of the local flock. Remember, however, that what you see may not be what is actually there.
Even if you have exactly 12 goldfinches come to the feeder every single day for a month, it is almost certain that you aren't seeing the same birds at the end of the month that you were seeing at the beginning. Hidden by the regularity of their appearance can be a fairly considerable migration. What is going on?
Goldfinches can be both facultative and leapfrog migrants. (The more scientists learn about migration, the faster they have to invent words to describe it. There are dozens of "kinds" of migration, including not only facultative and leapfrog, but upslope, downslope, differential, partial, irruptive, trans-equatorial, etc.)
Back to our facultative, leapfrogging, goldfinches. A facultative migrant is one that moves in response to local conditions. Facultative migrants have thrown off the limitations of many birds, the ones programmed to fly from point A to point B and back every year. Facultative migrants assess the weather, the local food supply, and other factors and either stay put or hit the road depending on what they find. They may start at point A (and stay there), or go to point B and then point C and then point D. They are not looking for a specific place, they are looking for the right circumstances.