A while back my brother asked me an innocent question that has stuck with me ever since. That question was “are there any common (translated local) birds you haven’t been able to photograph yet?”. At the time I think I said there were a few especially in the smaller bird category since I have trouble distinguishing the Sparrows from each other and some of those Wrens are just so damn hyper I can’t get a bead on them. Frequently, I come back to that question when I’m looking through a bird reference our even while out in the field and trying to decide if I want to make the effort to shoot what appears to be a common bird – “do I have that checked off the list or not?” There is usually some doubt after the internal debate since I don’t actually carry my list with me. Turns out there is one bird that fits this category and that is this one.
Yep, the uber common Blue Jay that inhabits almost anywhere you look here in the Midwest. I was going through my backlog and saw this set of shots taken in our woods one particularly dreary day. I was about to skip over the shots when I remembered the question. Might as well check just in case. To my surprise I did not have it checked off (remember that I do not officially give myself the mark until the shots appear on the blog). Apparently I had overlooked this common bird!
Hit the jump to read more about the notorious Blue Jay
There is probably one key reason for this oversight – I happen to HATE THIS BIRD. It was a surprise that these shots were even in the tin since the standard protocol is to notice a bird, see the signature blue crown, put the camera down and call it an asshole. Granted, the bird receiving this insult could care less (because, like the Elk) these creatures are just smug – smug I tell you. Sure, they do have a more colorful palette than the average bird and rival the Cardinal’s distinctive head dress. This feature doesn’t make up for the fact they are the bully of the aviary kingdom. I have to see them every day at my feeders and that means every day I have to see them pushing the smaller birds around. They’ll fly in and just shove any other bird out of the way and start feeding themselves. If the victim doesn’t back down to the intrusion it will drill them with that dagger of a beak .
I should point out that even the birds in the same size range tend to back off as well. The Cardinal will have nothing to do with it and will generally escape to the trees when it comes – even when the Cardinal numbers far exceed the 2 to 3 that usually arrive at a time. Get a backbone Cardinals – you are the state bird – unleash hell on them.
It does appear that the other bully in the sky (the Brown-Headed Cowbird which I also HATE) doesn’t take much crap off it – probably more of a mutual respect. The only non birds of prey that really stick up for themselves against these blue devils are the Woodpeckers. Unlike the other birds they will not leave the feeders when the blue and white swoops in. I’ve never seen the Blue Jay give them any crap and my guess is they can recognize their superior thunder stick.
Probably time for some interesting facts. First off, they are known to poach eggs from other birds – and the primary reason I hate them so much. The Cornell site (link here) calls this into question stating that only like 1% in a study were identified as doing this. I’ve been forced to learn a lot of falsehoods in my early education years (which I constantly remind my brother about) but for now I’m holding this as truth until I get something more concrete. For the record, I hate the Cowbird because it pirates other bird’s nests to lay their eggs so it doesn’t have to actually do any work to raise them – bastards. Cornell also states that the Florida Blue Jays are dominated by other birds and squirrels – this is NOT the case in my neck of the woods. Additionally, the black markings on the face/head/throat varies extensively and may help Blue Jays recognize one another.
Something you might not know (because I had no clue until researching for this post), the Blue Jay exhibits Structural Coloration. That means their blue coloring does not originate from pigments and instead are a result of “production of color by microscopically structured surfaces” according to Wikipedia. These structural surfaces are fine enough that they interfere with visible light that produces the blue visual. If you take one of their blue feathers and smash it, the blue coloring goes away. Be sure to thank me the next time you use this knowledge on a crossword puzzle.
Well, that’s all I have (or want to spend with this bird) so I’ll call it a post and get my bird list mark. Oh, another bird that continues to elude me is the Bobolink. You would think that a supposed common bird with such distinctive markings would be an easy check but not – it is tops of my list this year to get in the tin – wish me luck.
2 thoughts on “A Blue Devil”
Well, if you want a Bobolink you’ll have to come up to Springbrook Prairie Preserve near me. I haven’t seen one lately, but in years past I’ve seen quite a few. I can tell them immediately by what I call their “trash talk”.
Nice shots of the Blue Jay. They are cool, you know, and they really respond to the bird calls on my old iPad (meaning they don’t like them and swoop at me). The black eyes throw me off a bit (“lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be livin’. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin’ and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin’ and hollerin’ they all come in and rip you to pieces.”)
That picture of the top back of the bird is really unique, I think. You should really change your mind about the Blue Jay.
I had never heard about the structural coloring–how strange for such bright colors! I wonder if that only works for blue, scattered coloring. I also wonder whether the bird’s coloring is great camouflage because it’s coloring would change along with the sky due to the same scattering phenomenon.
So an easy one to check off your list after all!
Hmmmm intrigued by trash talking Bobolinks – let me know if you see one up there (CHICAGO) so I can add one to my list! For the record, Blue Jays are not cool – they are evil, evil I tell you – much like the razor toothed devils from the deep you so eloquently referred to in your quote by Mr. Quint.
I think you are referring to the mirror property, not the structural coloring concept hehehe
yep, about as easy as getting a Robin around here