Though the aggressive nature of a blue jay can be unappealing, there's something to be said for a creature with such a small stature that retains the gumption to sing its squeaky song so loudly. (MDC file photo)
There's a mockingbird that's returned to the Carolina Buckthorn shrub outside my office window for the fourth winter in a row. The thick shrub with its plethora of bright red berries is a prime location for the bird to take shelter from the cold.
Mockingbirds are a delight to have around because of their unmatched variety of volume and musical notes. While I work in my office, I enjoy glimpses of the bird as he looks for food or simply takes his post on one of the many branches.
Earlier this week, the resident mockingbird battled a bold, somewhat obnoxious blue jay. Knowing how aggressive blue jays can be, I was concerned the mockingbird might lose his post after all these years. However, I enjoyed the visit from the blue jay. He was much more active than the mockingbird, as he seemed to scurry around checking the place out.
The beautiful, bold coloring of blue jays make them a wonderful bird species to start with when learning bird identification, especially for children. They're conspicuous because of their size and striking color, and the distinct crest on their head. They have an aggressive nature and are often found bullying smaller birds at feeders, or any place they can find a meal. This aggressive trait can seem unappealing, but it's also why the blue jay is chosen often as a mascot for sports teams (as in the Oak Ridge Blue Jays).
There's something to be said for a creature with such a small stature that retains the gumption to sing its squeaky song so loudly. Perhaps this is an example of the blue jay's high level of intelligence and complex social abilities. They are the "danger alarm" of the forest as they greet intruders with a piercing call that sounds like they're saying "jay, jay, jay" or "thief, thief, thief." Especially compared to the mockingbird, jays' voices are harsh. They have a particular call that is a very good impression of a squeaky pump handle.
Both of these songbirds are native to Missouri. The northern mockingbird is found across the southern United States and up into the northeast. The blue jay ranges across the eastern and midwest portion of the United States. Both species are found in forests and towns and play an important role in the environment through seed dispersal.
I didn't stick around to watch what happened in the squabble between the birds, but the familiar mockingbird has resumed his position. I assume he'll be hanging onto the same branches this winter as he did the last three years. Meanwhile, the blue jay drama has transitioned to my bird feeders at home as some arrived recently to compete with the cardinals and other feathered guests. This saga will continue at feeders across our state this winter. My plan is to enjoy the entertainment from my kitchen window.
Don't forget to fill your feeders. The weather's turning cold and our native winter birds are out looking for feeding territories. For more information about Missouri's winter birds go online to www.MissouriConservation.org.