Saturday, February 13, 2010

GBBC - Tale of Two Jays 2-13-10

Just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), an anomaly flew into our feeding area.  A Blue Jay, resident in 39 of the 50 U.S. states but rare in our scrubby hills.  And bonus, our FIRST blue jay in four years and # 85 on our house bird species list. 

 Blue jays have adapted well to living among people and are common in towns and suburbs.  You can probably see blue jays in every Hill Country town.  They fly in chattering groups, searching through neighborhoods for acorns, seeds and water.  
 Blue jays have a range of calls and are skilled mimics.  When we lived in Florida, a blue jay used to clear our feeder by whistling the cry of a red-shouldered hawk.  The other birds would scatter and the jay would fly in to a vacant feeder.

Blue Jay photo from Tony Tanoury's Flikr stream. To see more of his beautiful work, click his name.

But our rough and wild Hill Country landscape is home to a different species of jay, the Western Scrub JayScrub jays are larger and louder.  Not shy but wary.  Scrub jay family dynamics include tree-top sentinals watching and warning of threats. 

Scrub jays are far less numerous that blue jays, living primarily in dry western scrub and chaparral and oak/juniper/pinon forests. In Texas, scrub jays are only found in the Hill Country and a rugged section of far west Texas.

We've enjoyed regular scrub jay visits since we put out a bird bath.  When we saw the first jay, we started putting out peanuts in the shell, which are a strong draw for the jays.
And for the gray foxes that live in our neighborhood too.

What did you see in your yard today?  Leave a comment and share your sightings with my other Hill Country Mysteries friends.

See you tomorrow with more.

Words and photos by Kathleen Scott,for her blog Hill Country Mysteries. Copyright 2009-2010.


  1. Scrub jays are cool. They love those peanuts! I used to birdwatch on a Florida golf course called - and I'm not making this up - The Habitat. It hosted three families of scrub jays and they loved the golfers, who fed them. I once had a scrub jay perched on my head while another sat on my hand eating a peanut. A special moment!

  2. I'm reminded of a wonderful book, Louise Erdrich's The Blue Jay's Dance... here in Michigan, we're still snow-covered, but some sort of animal is coming for the fruit I put outside earlier in the week... haven't spotted him yet. Very cold out here!

  3. I love Blue Jays. We have two pair that regularly visit our feeders. They always seem to be first to arrive and their caws alert the rest of the birds in the neighborhood that the buffet line is open. Within minutes, the garden is teeming with life. I love it!

  4. Wow! You really saw fox in your yard? Sadly, we don't have a lot of birds in our backyard -- not sure why. We do have a heck of a lot of crows, though, and I hate them, actually! Coyotes also come down from the hills, looking for water, but the sight of a wild coyote in suburban LA is a bit depressing.

  5. We love our Blue Jays here in the GTA, but even though they can be bullies , it's the squirrels that take the peanuts and sunflower seeds before anyone.

    We don't feed birds in our yard, stopped a few years ago , long story that included a neighbour that was beginning to attract so many crows and seagulls , and well it was all very The Birds like.

  6. My yard is home to several types of woodpeckers, chickadees, and cardinals that I've seen today. Hawks circle overhead, but haven't hunted at my feeder for a few years now. At night I can hear an owl, I saw him once, he was magnificent, swooping along the treeline at dusk.
    I envy your foxes, we have some bold coyotes that make me nervous, one as large as a german shepard. We have a herd of deer that wander our yard, as we are where the woods meet the prairie, though I've only seen their scat today, which sadly, my dog finds irresistible.

  7. I am new to GBBC, so I am just learning the ropes. My yard is normally full of tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees. However, with the snow, the dark-eyed slate-colored juncos are making a name for themselves. If the count had been last weekend, I had at least 10 on the patio at one time. This weekend, I saw nine. I did not start early enough to capture my goldfinch, but held out until my very regular red-bellied woodpecker made an appearance. Other sightings included a purple finch, an eastern towhee,at least six white-throated sparrows, one cardinal(usually I have several), at least ten robins and one Cooper's hawk. I have a learning curve to climb, but am getting better.

  8. Thanks Cindy and Jane. Nice to hear about your blue jays.

    Elizabeth, we're just coming into fox season now. I don't know why but we see more of them in spring--five one night last week.

    Deb, I understand. We quit feeding in Florida, in spite of the parrots the feeders brought in, because of the squirrels. The day I counted 25 squirrels AT ONE TIME was the last day we put out food.

    Mel,I'd be afraid of coyotes too, particularly if their scat found it's way into the house on the dog.

    Kayce, what a fantastic count you had! Your feeder is helping sustain the bird population during this hard winter. And you've learned so much about the birds in just the last months. Denny and I saw our first white-throated sparrow this year. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Morning Kathleen!
    Oh we have our scrubbies too--during non-nesting season I can call them in yelling 'blooooo jaaaaaay' while putting peanuts in the dish feeder.
    We do have one very brave blue jay in the neighborhood. We've lived outside the city limits in the county for 12 years and have never seen one this far outside the city. He's prevailed and I hear him screaming down the street and through the trees when it's nice weather.
    I love that you love your foxes! They are the best. And peanuts--all kinds of critters love them!!
    I filled my feeders this weekend and the goldfinches, titmice, chickadees, house finches and sparrows are working on them. And a couple of days ago a red-tail skreeeed overhead while I was out front--spring is coming!!

  10. Pretty! I've never seen a scrub jay before, but the blue jay posted above him is one that we see around here. . .


My readers are all geniuses. Can't wait to see what you have to say.