Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nature's Perfect Bird


My backyard has a bluish cast right now--everywhere I turn there are Blue Jays. I love these birds for their sparkly eyes, perky little crest, sociable ways, devotion to family, and intelligence. This week Karl Bardon counted about 5000 in a single day at Hawk Ridge, but even as those were flying through, there are plenty around to enjoy.

When Blue Jays are flocking, they keep their crests down. Blue Jays use their crests as "body language." When a Blue Jay's crest is erect, the bird is signaling agitation, aggression, territoriality, or alarm. When its crest is down, the bird is signaling cooperation and that all is well in the world. I didn't get any photos today of my birds with their crests up--every time I saw it, a hawk was coursing through the neighborhood, and before I could focus the birds were all gone like a flash. It's one of the bonuses, and difficulties, of living right below Hawk Ridge. And by the way, you should stop by there. I went today for just a few minutes, and even when the wind was all wrong saw several Bald Eagles and Sharp-shinned Hawks, and one Osprey, Turkey Vulture, and Broad-winged Hawk. Debbie Waters was showing a male and a female Sharp-shinned Hawk in the hand at the main overlook, and released them so everyone could see them in flight, too. When visitors are up at the main overlook, birds caught at the banding station that aren't too agitated are sent to the overlook for everyone to enjoy. Our spectacular Broad-winged Hawk migration is entering its peak period now, but will be over in a few weeks. Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, and Goshawk migration will peak in October. But each peak period is an ephemeral phenomenon. Come on up and enjoy it soon!

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