Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A solitary bluejay

A couple weeks ago, Don and I were taking Mr. Darcy for his evening walk when I heard a raucous bird call. "That sounds like a jay," I said, puzzled.

Jays aren't common around here. Their niche is dominated by magpies, which are ridiculously abundant.

Once in a while at the feeder, I had a Steller's jay or three, but even those aren't overly common.

But the call I heard didn't sound like a Steller's jay. When I spotted the source in a neighbor's willow tree, I was beside myself with excitement. It was a bluejay! A real live bluejay!

Bluejays are very common east of the Rockies, but vanishingly rare around here (my bird book refers to them as "casual" visitors in this part of Idaho). The neighbors whose tree it is says the jay has been hanging around for a couple weeks.

In fact, we ended up seeing this jay for several days. Always alone.

The last time I saw him was the last day of October.

It sure was fun seeing a bird that was so common during my New York State childhood. What a pity we don't get cardinals.


  1. What a joy! It really is fun to see new birds. I do the same thing when I hear a new bird...try to find it and figure out what it is! We drove to eastern Washington recently and saw that black and white bird (Magpie). I couldn't remember what it was...thank you!

  2. Avalanche Lily: Patrice, that is so cool to see that Blue Jay. Being also from the east coast, I miss seeing them and the cardinals, the White-throated sparrows, Gold Finches (Not in our valley, but I have heard them in a nearby town). Fun!!

  3. Those Steller Jays are stellar! How beautiful they are. Here in northern WI we have tons of regular jays and scattered Grey Jays. I'm glad you got to see the Jay of your childhood.

  4. I had to chuckle when I saw this. I have Blue Jays - which chase most birds from my feeders. In the last year or so the Magpies have discovered the elderly part of my herd (3 stallions - 25, 26, and 27 YO and one mare 30 YO) does not clean up after dinner very well. The 27 YO stallion (sire of the filly born on Mother's Day a few years back) had a Magpie perched on his back this week!

    Ian Tyson (a Canadian national treasure) sang a song called Magpie. He called them "a Coyote in the sky".

    Thanks Patrice - you made me smile

  5. As a child in Souther Idaho I used to see Wax Wing Cardinals every winter.

  6. I always liked Blue Jays; beautiful birds even though they are not generally well regarded by reputation as unmusical, aggressive, raucous, and tend to thievery. They share all these traits with their cousins in the Corvid family—other jays, magpies, crows, ravens etc. It’s a pleasure to see both old friends and casual visitors isn’t it? A sighting of a Western Bluebird near the North Carolina coast earlier this year caused a minor sensation and drew quite the crowd hoping to get a glimpse of the visitor. A few years ago, when we lived in northern Virginia near Washington DC, we saw for 4 summers a singleton male Oregon Junco at our feeders, a “casual visitor” native to our Western states. Really appreciate your columns!—John G.

    1. I read somewhere about a week ago that researchers are now saying that, either crows or ravens, have tested to be more intelligent than chimpanzees. So if Jay's are from the same family, they're probably really smart too.

  7. My daughter and I raised a blue jay. Friends had cut down and tree and their dog got hold of the fledgling. It's eye was damaged and it was so young we couldn't tell what type of bird it was.

    We brought it home and it grew and thrived. It's eye healed completely and she feathered out to a beautiful blue jay.

    She was a delight and a rogue. Her favorite food was scrambled eggs and she would sit on the edge of the plate snatching bites whenever she could.

    One morning when my mom was visiting I came downstairs puzzled when I didn't see her in the kitchen. I couldv'e sworn I had heard her? I opened the pantry door and there she was hunched over her bowl of food. She said she had to hide in the pantry so Lucky would leave her alone!

    Jays are known for their raucous calls. One day when the house was quiet, Lucky was sitting atop the cabinet. I heard the most beautiful, soft, melodious twittering. I looked around wondering where the sound was coming from then I looked up and said, "Is that you?" She leaned over the edge of the cabinet and said, "AAUCK." It was hilarious!

    She liked to hide food whenever she found a convenient spot. One morning I got to work, opened my computer bag and found bits of old, dried out scrambled eggs and dead worms. Apparently I'd left the zipper open and she thought it would be a good place to store a snack.

  8. We see so many jays in Alabama. But, I don't think I have ever seen a magpie.