Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Defense of Blue Jays

Many birders, myself included, do not exactly hold Blue Jays in high regard.  The loud, big birds are feeder bullies, often driving away smaller birds (which include just about all birds see at back yard feeders), and the omnivorous jays have been known to raid the nests of other birds, eating their eggs and even the young of other species.

However, this morning, I witnessed what I can only describe as redeeming behavior by the group of six or seven jays who have taken up residence in the Chateau Papillon back yard.  The Blue Jays began screaming and calling incessantly with their alarm screech, and a quick scan of the tree and fence lines revealed the reason: an adult female Cooper's Hawk.

While I admire hawks and do not begrudge them their prey--their hunting is part of nature, and an impressive sight to behold at that--we do have a pair of bluebirds nesting in the yard, too, and I'd hate to see one of the bluebirds become breakfast for a passing hawk.

In short order, the flock of jays "mobbed" the Cooper's Hawk, a behavior of prey birds where groups will flock around and even dive at predators like hawks and owls, eventually driving the Cooper's away, possibly saving the lives of birds far smaller than the boisterous jays in the process.

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