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Posts Tagged ‘Cyanocitta cristata’

I spotted this Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) high in the trees in my neighborhood on a day when my travels were grounded by the snow and the ice. Normally you know when there is a blue jay is in the area because their calls are really loud, but this one was surprisingly silent.

I was fascinated to read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that, “The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.” I think that my neighborhood blue jays have deceived me on multiple occasions when I searched in vain for a hawk upon hearing one of its distinctive calls.

If you look closely at the feet of this bird you may notice that they are not in contact with any of the branches. There also does not appear to be any wing movement, so perhaps the blue jay was practicing its levitation skills. While that is certainly possible, I believe that the blue jay may simply have been hopping to another spot on the branch and did not want to bother with flapping its wings.

Blue Jay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I really enjoy capturing action sequences of the interaction between creatures in the wild. It’s not easy sometimes to explain the behavior that I observe, but often it seems that many wild creatures have a sense of territoriality and will fiercely defend their space against all encroachers.

That seems to have been the case on Thanksgiving Day when I observed two Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) harassing a Merlin (Falco columbarius) at Huntley Meadows Park in Northern Virginia. I have seen blackbirds and crows in the past harassing eagles and hawks and have been shocked to see how much smaller the aggressors were than the birds they were chasing. In this case, however, the blue jays and the merlin appeared to be about the same size.

The blue jays appeared to be using a variety of techniques. The two shots below show one of the blue jays buzzing the merlin, flying surprising close to the little falcon.

blue jays and merlin

blue jays and merlin

The next three shots show a concerted effort to crow the merlin. Initially the blue jays positioned themselves on opposite sides of the merlin. Then one of the blue jays moved closer, to a position almost directly below the merlin. In the final shot, the merlin exploded into the air and one of the blue jays simultaneously took off to chase after the merlin.

I took these shots from quite a distance away and still had to crop them a lot, but I think the images still manage to show some pretty fascinating behavior that I was privileged to observe and document.

blue jays and merlin

blue jays and merlin

blue jays and merlin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blue Jays are usually very loud and obnoxious, but this one flew by me without a sound.  When I looked at the photos, it was pretty clear why I had heard only the sounds of silence—the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) had apparently discovered an all-you-can-eat buffet and decided to stuff its mouth.  I suspect that the Blue Jay was going to cache the food, which seems to include acorns, and go back for more.

bluejay_mouthful_blogbluejay2_mouthful_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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