[CT Birds] Blue Jay saga (long, but not as long as - say - Grendel)

greg hanisek ctgregh at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 30 14:36:50 EDT 2017

For about three weeks I've beenwatching a pair of Blue Jays that clearly have a territory centeringon a dense, scrubby lot across the street from our house. Our houseis at the end of a T intersection that has a small traffic circlewhere the trunk of the T meets our street. Although owned by thecity, this circle is lovingly maintained by a neighbor who cuts thegrass, waters the clump of flowering plants in the center and keeps abird bath in that clump filled. The Blue Jays' world consists for themost part of the scrubby lot, the circle, my yard and my next-doorneighbor's yard. The birds can be found at any time of day, when notin the scrubby lot, either perching on the utility wires or pickingup food from the lawns in the circle, in my yard or in the neighbor'syard. I can go out on my porch at anytime, and within a few minutesone of the pair will show itself.
I've been relaxing on the porch a lot,trying to figure out at exactly what stage this breeding has reached.It's been puzzling because I haven't seen the birds carrying nestmaterials, obvious food or fecal sacs. (Many nestling birds defecatewithin a sac that the parents remove from the nest with no soiling,an adaptation for sanitation. Observing an adult bird carrying afecal sac is positive proof of a nest with hatchlings). 
I see the birds go into the scrubby lotoften and I seem them feeding on the lawn often. But I never see themcarrying obvious food into the probable nest site. The items theypick from the lawn are very small, to the point that I can't see whatthey are. In most cases the Jays appear to swallow them and neverseem to go straight from picking things on the lawn to flying into the scrub. They usually go from the lawn to the wires or the lawn to thebird bath. That's led me to believe that there may not be anyyoung yet.
The adults are generally pretty quietwhen they're out and about. They're usually out one at a time, butboth are out together enough that I wondered what that meantregarding eggs, young or nest-building. The answer emerged thisafternoon (Friday) when I heard both of them screeching franticallyand saw them very aggressively chase a stray cat across the street,up a driveway and behind a house. I was on the porch at the time,went in briefly and came back out about 10 minutes later to see awell-feathered fledgling hop cross the trunk of the T and into a yardcatty-corner from my house. This is a small, very shaded yard and notone of the parents' usual feeding spots. But one flew downimmediately to tend (maybe feed) the youngster, which then hid inshrubs around the house's foundation. The parents now centered theirquiet presence in that yard.
I jumped online and went to Birds ofNorth America Online for some answers. Fledging normally takes 17-21days, so my awareness of the pair spanned approximately the time theyoung were in the nest. The male starts out feeding both the youngand the female, but eventually the female increasingly joins in thefeeding.That accounts for both of them being out together at times.  I have to assume that the adults “stored” the food fromthe lawn and let the young birds go into their throats after it orregurgitated it. BNA did not address that.
It did answer my question about thelack of fecal sac disposal though. It said adult Blue Jays swallowthe sacs instead of carrying them off conspicuously in their billsthe way many other birds do. It's apparently unknown if they laterdisgorge them or just consume them.
I'm heading out now to see if any morefledglings emerged. The one seen today was well-feathered butapparently not yet fully flighted.
Greg HanisekWaterbury

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