Too Quick to Judge

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During these long, lazy summer days, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the birds. I’m simply fascinated by the activity around the suet feeder. Birds come and go all day long. Some posture and protest the arrival of others with threatening calls, open beaks and wing flapping. Some make room and comfortably share the feeder. It’s a never-ending show! The loudest and most common visitors are blue jays whose awful reputation as nest, egg and nestling stealers precedes them.

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Oh, you blue jays!
You awful, raucous birds
whose calls splinter
the serenity of morning
as you posture and defend
your post at the suet basket,
gorging and spraying seed
with greedy abandon.

Oh, you blue jays!
You egg- and nest- stealers
who feast on nestlings
and dominate the feeder
til at long last, sated,
you flash into the sky
with piercing cries,
flaunting plumage
glazed in stunning blue.

Oh, you blue jays!
If I didn’t know your nature,
your beauty would dazzle me.

Molly Hogan (c) 2016

After writing the above poem, I researched blue jays and was fascinated by what I learned.

  • They communicate with a variety of calls and use their perky crests to show their mood: A lowered crest indicates relaxation, as when feeding peacefully or tending nestlings, while an erect crest indicates surprise or aggression.
  • Blue jays are skilled mimics. Their red-shouldered hawk imitation is quite convincing and they may use it to warn of a hawk’s approach and/or to disperse other birds from feeding areas.
  • Jays are especially fond of eating acorns and store them in caches. One study of six radio-transmitter-tracked jays found that each one cached between 3,000-5,000 acorns and later retrieved  about 30% of them. It’s not so difficult to believe then that this hoarding behavior has been credited with helping to redistribute oak trees after the last glacial period. (Isn’t that amazing!?)
  • While it does sometimes occur, it is not common for blue jays to eat the eggs and nestlings of other birds.
  • Finally, though they have a reputation for being aggressive, there are studies that show jays being bullied away from feeders by other birds.

    So, after learning all of this, I’m feeling a bit judgmental now–too quick to condemn based on rumor and pre-conceived notions. As a result, I’ve perhaps misjudged jays and simultaneously deprived myself of enjoying their colorful plumage.  There’s a larger life lesson here but I won’t belabor the point. For now, though I still won’t enjoy their raucous cries, I will watch the jay action at the feeder with a more open and informed eye and allow myself to enjoy their stunning beauty. Perhaps I’ll even begin working on an apology poem.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, here is a recording of their strident call:

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7 thoughts on “Too Quick to Judge

  1. WOW! Those are some interesting facts about blue jays that I didn’t know. I didn’t realize they ate acorns. Thank you for shedding the light on the truth about jays. I was with you in thinking that they are bullies. Beautiful poem too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy Warntz says:

    Oh, yes that blue jay is snazzy and snappy bird. I love them for their beauty too and your poem speaks wonderfully of them. I happen you give a poem of apology a try. They are fun poems and you definitely have the facts to incorporate into your writing. Great post, Molly! Of course, I can’t help but to enjoy your photography skills too! Happy bird watching! (and writing!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that birds are mesmerizing. I’ve been watching a robin chasing blue jays away from her nest in one of our apple trees for the past week. Hopefully, she’ll be able to keep them away from her eggs. “Raucous” cries splintering “the serenity of morning” is exactly right. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. newtreemom says:

    Watching birds is so enjoyable! I liked your poem and look forward to the apology to go with it. Your research was fascinating. “Plumage glazed in stunning blue”- I love that!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. […] writing a rather unfriendly poem about blue jays recently (here), I did some research and realized that I may have misjudged them.  I thought it might be fun to […]

    Like

  6. cvarsalona says:

    I enjoyed reading this piece and now I am back to your PF post for today.
    This bird sounds like the morning sounds I hear. Since I am not a bird person, I wonder if I have blue jays around.

    Like

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