Newest Friends: Steller’s Jays

Honestly, this story begins a full two years ago, even though it culminates in the last three days in these pictures. It began with a single bird talking to himself somewhere near my large back garden, though clearly not in my garden. The chattering reminded me of the same kind of talking on and on that English budgies get into, clearly a joy simply in hearing oneself talk. Anyone who has had budgies will know of what I’m speaking. But just to make it crystal clear, if you will go here, and listen solely to the Male Song, you will hear what I heard. I was actually a bit alarmed as I truly thought someone’s budgie had escaped. But no amount of searching gave me a peek at the songster.

The next year the same thing happened. However, simultaneously I began spotting a large blue jay back in my apple tree to my huge delight. Initially I never put the song I’d heard and this new blue beauteous addition together. But I began to research him and discovered he was a Steller’s Jay. Eventually I did see him singing his song and was amazed he was the singer, as I expect the sounds of jays to be rather raucous. I looked forward to his occasional visits and made a point of making it clear to him I could be trusted, speaking gently to him, sending him a deep love and appreciation for his showing up in my garden!

Anyone who has followed this blog over time might well recall that there are an abundance of scrubjays in Mendocino County, and I have written about them and my experiences “taming them”. (Though one might say they have tamed me, as they forged relationships with humans long before I was around.) The more I explore the jay families and their habits the more I have enlarged my view of their larger family, the cordivae, which includes the crows and ravens, who are also in abundance in this very rugged county, and in so doing I have gained more and more respect for their kind. I’m certain they appeal to me not only for their strength and ingenuity, but also for their charming willingness to trust their own judgment and elect with whom they will be friends and with whom not. And, most of all, to remember. As in for years. And this has been documented. They, indeed, remember who has been kind to them and they are loyal to the connection, though I am not naive. I know their primary interest is in Who Brings Food. (I do.) However, there is another layer to this, the fact that the cordivae family mate for life. And Steller’s Jays have been known to live for up to 16 years, that we know about. Loyalty to their mates intrigues me and makes me wonder about that evolutionary choice. Regardless, I like it. It endears them to me.

You might imagine my delight when this year not only the male Steller’s Jay showed up. He had a mate! I was thrilled when I spotted them through my kitchen window tugging at a camellia branch, which only meant one thing. A nest was in the making! I wished very much it would be in my garden, a discovery I have yet to make. Nevertheless, they are here, close by, and our connection was accelerated rapidly over the last few days, as you shall here see.

Those of you in the Pacific Northwest know we have received a very late gift from Mother Nature–a profoundly delayed winter full of rain. So my initial foray into seeking out the pair this week was in a gloomy morning in the far back of the garden under the apple tree, the most likely place to find them. I whistled. I was quite surprised (and thrilled) that out he came, straightaway, onto a lower branch nearby.

I carefully placed peanuts on a nearby sidewalk, hoping I might entice him. Suddenly the second one emerged from an adjacent bush, but he scolded her and she flew back into hiding. Hmmm. Would I lose them both? No.

Peanuts are tempting. And delicious. And I apparently pass his test. Lucky me!

Suddenly the female emerged and grabbed a peanut or two. Imagine my surprise to see she also bore a crest on her head and looked nearly identical! Somehow I’d assumed she would be less flamboyant, as is so often true.

I was grateful for these initial shots (and the warming connection).

The next day I gave it another try. It had been raining now for days. Inches of rain. So I was not sure what to expect. Again, after a brief calling, out he popped, this time from a different direction. Poor thing. A bit fluffed up.

But willing. And far less afraid, even though I was much closer this time.

Wow. We’re really getting somewhere!

Success!

So you can imagine that today, with the sun finally shining, I had to give it another go. I called mid-morning. No one came. I left peanuts on the ground, and an hour or so later they were gone, so, encouraged, I went out one more time with another round of peanuts and my camera. By now I thought there was enough trust I might actually be able to get a much closer shot and just dragged the chair onto the sidewalk and sat and called. Bingo.

This lovely new friend now approached numerous times, with succeeding confidence, until each peanut had been garnered.
I am so fortunate to have him in my animal family. I look forward to learning all that I can.

May you be so blessed in your own gardens.

Love and birdie blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

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16 Responses to “Newest Friends: Steller’s Jays”

  1. Wonderful story!
    Beautiful photos!
    Have a great day!
    Lea
    Lea’s Menagerie

  2. Wow! Gorgeous pics and a lovely story. I so do adore Stellar Jays; how wonderful that they’ve come to visit. Great post, mom!

    Love you,
    Antonia
    xoxo

  3. Good morning, Lea! Thank you! It was a fun post to create! Kathryn xoxo

  4. Hi, Antonia, Glad you enjoyed the post! Btw, you are saying what I said for a long time, and I think it’s common: “Stellar Jays”. But they are actually named after a Mr. Steller, who, I believe, first saw them up in Alaska! And it really does have that apostrophe, as inconvenient and unlikely as that is! :) I had to truly start thinking of them as “Mr. Steller’s Jays” to get it right! Love, Mom xoxo

  5. Oh.My.Goodness!

    What an amazing story – and such beautiful birds Kathryn. I wish we had Stellar’s Jays over here – where I was doing a happy dance for finally getting some Goldfinches onto my feeders!

    Hope Luna is continuing to improve?!
    Hugs, Liz xx

  6. Hi, Liz! Aren’t they lovely? I’d be happy with goldfinches, too. The more the merrier! Thanks for your well wishes for Luna. She’s still here, but “improving” is probably too strong a word. Still enjoying some simple pleasures. One day at a time. :) Hugs! Kathryn xoxo

  7. Kathryn, I so enjoyed this post. I knew nothing about the Stellar’s Jays. Thank you. I do love my American Goldfinches. They are greedy things, but I so enjoy watching them as I do the Cardinals in winter.~~Dee

  8. Hi, Dee, Glad you enjoyed this story. We have no cardinals here, but I was thrilled to have them in my garden when I lived in Asheville. So brilliant! Kathryn xoxo

  9. Wow,to get so close is absolutely fantastic! I hope Luna is doing great. She has a great mom. Mary

  10. Hi, Mary! It truly is fun! There aren’t that many wild birds that would tolerate this! Thanks for your caring thoughts. Kathryn xoxo

  11. Wonderful story Kathryn! We have scrub jays here and I love them. Haven’t tried to befriend them though. I mostly watch through the window as they interact with all the other birds that come to our feeders. I wonder if we’ll get any Steller’s.

    Love your photos too. Enjoy your new friends!

    Love,
    Kathlene

  12. Hi, Kathlene, Love the scrubjays! I call them “scrubbies”. :) It’s very fun to befriend them (as long as you don’t have outdoor cats, which would be rather a setup). Let me know if you get Steller’s! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  13. I love Steller’s Jays! I invite you to follow my blog, Gardening Upstream.

  14. Hi, Madeline, Glad you are familiar with Steller’s Jays and are also a fan.
    Kathryn xoxo

  15. I loved this website! There is nothing like the love of nature. Sadly, I was trying to find out if Stellar Jays mate for life. A few days ago we had an incident that broke my heart. We have a cat who has a restricted pen in our backyard. It is fenced with wire fencing for his safety (we have coyotes, eagles & hawks). My husband came in to tell me Gabby had a blue jay in his mouth. I was able to get it away from him & took it to the edge of our property which is forested. I put him down & he hopped into the brush. The next day my husband put some bird seed & a small water dish down to see if he would eat/drink. I called our vet & they said to bring him in & they would check him out. My dear husband made a net for me & I soon found our jay sitting at the edge of the yard. I was able to capture him & my hubby took him to the vet’s. When we called the next day, to our dismay, he had passed. Now one jay comes to our feeder. I hear her in the woods calling with no reply. I am heart sick. I was hoping I would find that she would find another mate. Unfortunately, I’m not find that.

  16. Hi, Annie, Thank you and welcome. Oh, dear. Yes, if that had happened in my garden I would also have been very sad. :( Don’t feel guilty, however. My listening is you do your best to contain your cat, and he is still a cat. Cats often catch birds. It is my belief that the jays stay with the same mate. I know for certain ravens do. I do not have any experience to know whether when a jay loses a mate she would choose another, perhaps the next season. If I were in your shoes I’d extend as much love to the female as possible. (I’d also be certain kitty is fully under control first. :)) They are very intelligent. The sheer fact she’s still around indicates something. If a raven has a bad experience the flock won’t go NEAR wherever that was, for years. Seriously. Let me know what happens. Kathryn xoxo

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