Friday, January 4, 2013

I and the Bird: Stellers Jay

I and the Bird is my favorite birding experience on the Interwebs!  Their upcoming issue is on Jays.   These colorful and brazen cousins of Ravens and Crows are some of my favorite birds.  Here at my house, we have Stellers Jays.  They are beautiful birds with striking black and bright blue plumage as well as a head crest that adds to their dramatic appearance.

Steller's Jay
Stellers Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)
Stellers Jays are often a large part of our birding life here at my house in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.  We are coastal mountains and we are at about 700 feet above sea level.  We will occasionally see Western Scrub Jays here but Stellers Jays are in charge here.

Each year, a pair of Stellers Jays tries to build a nest in a location that they think is ideal -- under a sheltered roof beam near our carport.  There is, however, no way for a bird to build a nest there.  There is nothing to anchor the nest to and anything that gets built is swept away either by the tails of the jays themselves or a mild breeze blowing through. These birds are amazingly persistent in their attempts to build this impossible nest, however.  We know this because we see and hear them in their attempts but also because they do not recycle the sticks and twigs they attempt to use but instead they get new ones and the pile of discarded twigs at the end of their process is huge -- large enough to cover the spigot and hoses on the ground underneath them.  (Here is an older post about this silly pair.  It links to an even older one but the pictures it links to are gone now -- it's been awhile!)

Stellers Jays make quite a presence at our house and we have had successful nesting happen.  The successful and smart Stellers Jays choose our front porch as a nesting site.  There are multiple surprises about this.  First our front porch is a busy, active place with comings and goings by adults, kids, and delivery people.  It is, however, covered in wisteria vines which provide an ideal nesting location -- hidden, secure, and protected.  Smart birds.  The other surprise about a nest of Stellers Jays is how exceptionally quiet they are.  Mom and dad when they sit on the nest are absolutely silent.  The babies are as well.  No scolding for coming too close from Mom and Dad bird.  No cheeps of hunger from the babies (except when Mom and Dad appear and then it's brief).

Here are a series of photos I took the last time we had a pair nest on the porch.  I was fortunate enough to arrive home from work one day just in time to see them fledge so you can see one of the goofy, young jays on his first outing.  They hung around the yard for a few days and then disappeared.

A tiny head
See that beady little baby eye?
Dem beebees again
There are three beady little eyes in this picture.  If you can't find them, click on it to see them on Flickr where I highlighted them. 
Hot Beebees!
It was very hot and I think this pose is more about cooling off than expressing hunger. 
Look who I caught visiting!
Caught one of the parents visiting the nest.  They are all silent because I'm so close.
Closeup on the beebees
They are getting bigger.  
Early morning beebees
This is one of the babies right before they fledged -- starting to look like mini-grownups. 
Flew the nest
Out in the world.  It seems like this one is wondering if leaving the nest was a good idea or not. 

No comments:

Post a Comment