Posts Tagged ‘Scrub Jay’

I have been meaning to do another bird post for some time now. This has been the Year of the Back Yard Bird for us and I find it a bit of a victory. When we purchased this house, the yard was devoid of animal and insect life. I remember sitting in a lawn chair and bemoaning the fact that there were no bees, butterflies, or even neighborhood birds in the yard.

We began planting bird- and insect- friendly flowers. We put out the bird feeders. We added bird feeders, bird baths, and hummingbird stations.

It worked!

Not all of the birds we see are visitors to our yard, however. Some of them are mere fly-bys, like the Osprey.


He never came close enough for a good photo, but I could hear him calling as he circled in the up-drafts above the cliffs below us. A bigger zoom lens and I might have been able to capture him, but I will settle for this.

I have seen osprey much closer. I used to watch them fish the ponds below our rural home, before we moved into town. Once, I witnessed a young osprey catch a big Kamloops Rainbow Trout – the fish was nearly as big as the bird and the bird scarcely made it to the top of a fir tree to eat his prize.


From March – October, the Turkey Vultures catch thermals above the cliffs. They migrate south in October and return in March.


They came closer than the osprey did, but they were still pretty far away, circling over the edge of the cliffs.


I think they are beautiful birds, even if they are quite ungainly on the ground. And they poop on my house.


The hummingbirds have filled us with so much joy and laughter this summer. I need to refill all of the hummingbird feeders tomorrow because these little insectivores really suck up the energy drinks!

If you’re curious (and I know you are): boil 2 cups water for 2 minutes. Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar into the water. Cool and pour into a feeder. I actually boil 8 cups of water – that’s how many hummingbird feeders I have added to my yard.


We have had a trio of Scrub Jays and a single Stellar’s Jay hanging out in the yard. The Stellar’s spends most of its time in the hazelnut with the neighboring Eastern Fox Squirrel, trying to open unripened filberts. I caught this Scrub Jay enjoying the evening’s last rays.


This girl flew through our backyard, just feet from where I was sitting on the lawn chair, taking a breather from yard work. She kept peeking around the tree to see if I was going to come any closer.


Convinced I was harmless, she came out into the open and feasted. She’s a she: no red moustache.

The real reason I wanted to do a bird post was this guy.


He was hanging out with his two siblings, trying to rob the suet feeder and eating seeds knocked out of the feeder. There’s something terribly odd about him and I grabbed my camera to capture some images.


This is one of the siblings, a normal looking Western Scrub Jay.


And my bird. The lower part of his beak is twice as long as the upper half!

I did some research on deformed bird beaks and came up with some studies in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska – and in the United Kingdom – of a sudden rise in birds with deformed beaks. There’s no explanation for the sudden increase: they’ve studied environmental causes and come up dry. I couldn’t find a lot of information after 2010 and most of it was tied to studies by the USGS in Alaska. (that’s my link, not an advertisement)

I researched avian keratin disorder and came up with the same links and some research papers, but it’s pretty boring reading. Something is causing birds to grow abnormally long, twisted, or curled beaks. The studies seem to concentrate on chickadees, but jays are certainly among the birds affected. They don’t live long, lacking the ability to properly preen and care for their feathers.

British Trust for Ornithology

Wired Science

You can do your own search if you are interested. I am keeping an eye on my Scrub Jay friend. So far, he is still around.

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Several Band-Tailed pigeons were sitting in the half-dead Lodgepole Pine that commands our front yard. Oh, heck: the Lodgepole is the only tree in our yard. All the bird feeders hang from it’s lowest branches. The fungus that is slowly killing it is hidden deep in its heartwood and the birds don’t know it is dying.

Most of the pigeons flew off when I opened my car door.

“What happened to you?” I asked as I stood beneath the tree, looking up at her. I assume it is a ‘she’. She didn’t answer me.

There are some common misconceptions about Band-tailed Pigeons. They are not the same as “Rock-Doves” or the common Rock Pigeon. Those are the birds you see perched on public statues, along bridges and overpasses; pooping on everything; cooing and begging for crumbs in public parks; and generally making a pestilence of themselves.

Rock Pigeons are introduced from Europe, and like the rest of us former-Europeans, they have edged out the native birds. But the Band-tailed pigeon is a native bird. It is much shier than it’s city counter-part and a very nervous bird at the bird feeder.

One bird posts as a sentry while the rest vie for a place on the feeder.

Apparently this bird did not have a spotter and she tangled with a neighbor cat. I found feathers in and around the disputed territory of my bird bath in the front yard.

I think the cat did not know how big of a bird the pigeon was. She escaped, with a few ruffled feathers and a mild case of indignation.

I think I should name her “Fluffy”.

Days pass. Birds come and go. Cats drink out of the coveted bird bath. Birds continue to use it, too.

There were several Western Scrub Jays at play in the bath today, but this is the only one I captured. He was having too much fun.

Water droplets everywhere and not a care in the world!

Nothing like diving into the bath. This guy wants water everywhere.

He closes his eyes and takes a long sip of cool bath water: ahhhhh!

There were several poses like this: he’d pause, look around and try to identify where sounds were coming from (like the clicking of my shutter) or just to make certain no cats were sneaking up on him.

Speaking of cats.

This guy is either parked under my car or curled up under the hydrangea. He doesn’t live with the other cats that come into my yard: the black-and-white ones or the orange-and white one that cross the street to drink from the bird bath. This cat lives somewhere on the same block I live on.

“Excuse moi? I live here. You, human – and your pestilence of canines, are the guest. Capice?”

Yeah, I love this cat: he always looks at me like that and hes very slow to move when I walk toward him. He figures we’re the interlopers and this is his yard. (Yes, I know he is a tom. I have actually petted him.)

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I decided this year to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. I have no idea what drove this insanity – oh, yes I do: my new camera and lens. I figured I could count birds and take photos of them through the picture window.

I also figured the Pileated Woodpeckers would make an appearance, but I figured wrong. They stayed absent, as if sensing my desire to include them in my count. So did that elusive female Ruby-crowned Kinglet and the Evening Grosbeaks that I could hear, but never could see.

Still, I had a great time watching the birds in the suet and sunflower seeds. Usually, I have very few birds in the feeder for this event (one of the reasons I have never participated before), but this year my front yard was a Destination Resort or Bird B&B. That’s Bird Bistro & Bath. I served three kinds of suet: an inexpensive grocery store generic peanut-butter suet, a lard-and-meal worm suet that is heavy on meal worms, and a suet laced with meal worms, sunflower seeds and corn kernels. I also have the Niger thistle feeder out and the main feeder is full of un-shelled black-oil sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is filled with rain water and continually refilled naturally over the weekend.

I won’t count the weekend as a disappointment despite the no-shows to my party. I counted a flock of 19 pine siskins in a nearby tree; only one came to the feeder. A Stellar’s jay hung out in the same tree, but also did not come around to the feeder. His cousin, the western Scrub Jay, made a delightful appearance.

The usual party-goers were here: Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Black-capped Chickadee, a few Starlings, a pair of English House Sparrows, the House Finches.

The Song Sparrow always makes a showing this time of year, too.

Dark-eyed Juncos, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers (the female one day and the male the next – neither one posed for photos), and a Northern Flicker also came to the party.

A very Fat Cat American Robin invited his country cousin, the Varied Thrush in. We don’t see Varied Thrush unless there’s a storm moving in and the mountains are snowed in. It is the same size as a robin (the one in the bird bath had just taken a bath and had his feathers all fluffed out), but is a much showier bird.

I was not surprised to see the Varied Thrush hop up into the bird bath. This love for bathing seems to run in the Thrush family (Robins are Thrushes). Little did I know the Varied Thrush would be infinitely more entertaining than the robins.

Nose dive!

Up for air!

Looking as casual as if he’d never done that.

So – yeah. I didn’t expect that photo. I thought only owls could whip their heads around like that. Maybe it is that owls can do it so quickly that they look like they are rotating their head in 360-degrees. But I still did not know that thrushes could twist their heads 180-almost-degrees.

Aside from the acrobatics of the Varied Thrush and the variety of birds in my yard, the weekend was Birding As Usual…

…Which means Captain Jack came by to pirate some of the booty. Captain Jack has been around for several years now and I am still amazed at his ability to navigate with only one good eye. He must have some vision in his left eye because he has his good eye on the feeder, not on the house.

Have a great week – and watch out for birds! (And one-eyed squirrels.)

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