Scrub-jays Were in a Frenzy Today

scrub-jay on the fence

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.

Sand on the beak. This guy was busy rearranging his stash all the while keeping his eye on the area of the hawk which was roughly 200 yards away.
Another little guy with a rain drop bead dripping down his back. It was drizzling some today. Birds like the scrub-jay apply an oil to their feathers when they preen. The oil is produced from a gland in their body. Without it the bird would become water logged and would be unable to fly and could suffer hypothermia.

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