Today, I was at the edge of some scrub right where nature meets human habitat. The birds were eating and stashing nuts as usual but they were acting jumpy, almost frenzied. I couldn’t figure out what was up.
One female sat on a fence (pictured) and went through her calls like she was rehearsing. They all seemed a little rattled and were making all types of curious calls. One was a call they make when they want to alert each other of potential danger (kind of a schwwweee schwweee sound). But I couldn’t see any predator in the area.
It wasn’t until later on, about 200 yards away and across a creek, that I saw a small hawk perched on a tree. It may have been a Cooper’s Hawk or a small red-tailed hawk. Either way, it was what was causing the scrub-jays to be alarmed. A Cooper’s Hawk is bad news for them because it is so fast and nimble. It can definitely catch a scrub-jay.
At another point in the walk I saw a scrub-jay give out three or four warning alarm calls (the most serious call and one which sounds like “squeak squeak squeak”). Not only did the other scrub-jay in the area dive for cover but other species of bird dove as well. There is no doubt that birds recognize other bird’s warning calls. That reminds me, the mockingbird will occasionally mimic scrub-jay calls and ahve them on edge as well.