Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stellar's Jay

This Stellar's Jay was flitting about Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park. The persistent winds kept blowing its crest into wild, punk rocker coiffures.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of a Stellar's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) stealing my lunch. They are notorious throughout the the far western portion of North America, particularly in National Parks. This specimen in Rocky Mountain National Park fit the stereotype perfectly. "He" was jumping all around me in a continuous circle hoping for a crumb or direct handout. Such behavior, while convenient for photographers, is heart breaking to see. No wild animal should subsist on any food than an American chooses to put in its mouth. Their real diet is berries, nuts, seeds, small crawly things, and even small rodents. We could learn a lot from this...minus the small crawly things of course!

The Stellar's Jay is a large bird, with a tall, dark crest. Related to the Blue Jay, it is also called the Pine Jay, Mountain Jay, or Long-crested Jay. Its large pointed beak can intimidate children or novice hikers who find their aggressive tactics a little too Jurassic Park for their tastes. True to form, the bird has learned to mimic the call of the Red-tailed Hawk. This vocalization scares off other birds so that the Stellar's Jay can sneak in to a prime feeding area.

Stellar's Jays are know to hybridize with Blue Jays. This specimen has some white markings on its head. Could it have come from an inter-racial assignation?

I am so used to this bird, that I was quite surprised to learn that its range is very limited and that east of the Rockies it is virtually unknown. Out here, however, you can't set foot in a coniferous forest or open woodland without seeing one. If you do, just remember to hold on to your lunch!

1 comment:

Jann E. said...

Really love your Stellar's jay shots, esp. the first one! Super nice! I don't see them here in S Dakota, but grew up in N Calif so am familiar w/ them. Got some shots of a couple that was nesting near my parents house in N Calif back in June.