Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Black and Blue

On my walk today I saw a blue jay flying about among the spruce and the birches on Bayview Terrace. Seeing a jay is sufficiently rare these winter months that when I got home I consulted Sibley as to its winter range, thinking that perhaps climate change was increasing it even into Maine's dark months. I should not have been surprised to see that the jay covers pretty much all of eastern and central US all year. Just by its insouciance I should have known that winter would hardly be enough to curtail its activities.

I also should not have been surprised to see the jay in the same family section as the crow (also the magpie - of course). Both are social birds with loud mouths who, as Sibley says, "mob predators." When a group of crows sets up their hollering, you can safely bet that some owl or fisher is being harrassed. I've witnessed this: several times the congregation has sung in the trees near the house and a couple of minutes later I see a fox slinking and skulking down the shore, found out again. Sibley heads this section of his book "Jays, Crows and Their Allies," which seems especially appropriate in their bruising war of words against the flesh-eaters.

The range of the crow covers the entire US except for the deserts of the southwest (very sensible creature). It really should be the national bird. It's intelligent, articulate, sociable, courageous, common and adaptable. It's a democrat. Who cares about some soaring, warlike, endangered and unreachable eagle, however magnificent?

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