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A Sweet and Radiant Jay

Following the loss of my lovely little feline, my guy and I quickly began spying my beloved grandparents’ (long passed) cardinals everywhere…. Not a completely rare phenomenon in our region, but definitely not common — and not to the degree that we were witnessing. In the orchid tree outside our window, on the hike we took the following day, on the way to the car — literally everywhere. Immediately after the cardinals, the blue jays appeared. When one came to peacefully rest beside me in the wetlands, I had to honor these bright beauties. For those who believe in the concept of animal totems and symbolism, internationally recognized teacher and author Ted Andrews is a wonderful resource. His 1996 book Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small, and his later works Animal-Wise: The Spirit Language and Signs of Nature and Nature-Speak: Signs, Omens and Messages in Nature are always nearby on my shelf. Andrews worked in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and participated in animal education and storytelling programs in school classrooms. He was specially invited to speak to the UNSRC at the United Nations in New York for his writings and work with animals.

Yes, Blue Jays are common…. They’re noisy members of the crow family Corvidae. But as such, they’re intelligent birds with complex social systems. Besides having countless whistles and calls of their own, they can imitate the sounds of many birds — particularly enjoying those of hawks and owls. They seem to derive much pleasure in their cacophony of noisy calls and songs.

These North American jays are known for their aggressive behaviors and mischievous activities (especially at feeding stations) — as well as for occasionally destroying the nests and eggs of other birds — but our Florida Blue Jays are far from aggressive. They’re actually the bullied and shy birds at the birdfeeder — chased by the grackles, and even by the doves…. And chased from nest to nest. Their curiously shy behavior has been observed by many in the area. Why are South Florida Blue Jays so seemingly timid?

Blue Jays search for any suitable tree or large bush to build a nest, in which 4-5 eggs are laid and incubated by the female over 16-18 days. Both the male and the female build the nest and rear the young. Blue Jays are monogamous, maintaining the bond until one dies.

Another interesting note: As with other blue-hued birds, the Blue Jay’s coloration isn’t derived by pigments — it’s instead the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers, also known as structural coloration. If you crush a Blue Jay feather, the blue will disappear.

They’re particularly fond of peanuts and sunflower seeds. However, a note from Avianweb on feeding peanuts: Peanuts are a valuable source of protein – however, peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxin, a fungal toxin. Aflatoxin is carcinogenic and causes liver damage in birds and other animals. Roasting reduces aflatoxin but does not eliminate it entirely. North American peanut producers are currently working on eliminating contaminated peanuts from their products. Caution is advised when feeding peanuts.

Saying Hello: Blue Jay in the Florida Wetlands

Safe to Say Hello? Blue Jay in the Florida Wetlands

Lovely Feathers: Blue Jay in the Florida Wetlands

Bright Blue in the Swamp: Blue Jay in the Florida Wetlands

36 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lovely images.

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so much — I was lucky to have her visit so close. 🙂

      June 18, 2012
  2. I’ve never known blue jays to be meek, so the ones in your area come as a surprise. I was also surprised to learn that the blue coloring of jays isn’t from pigment, though I’d read about that phenomenon in other animal species. Thanks for the information.

    Steve Schwartzman
    http://portraitsofwildflowers.wordpress.com

    June 18, 2012
    • It *is* a very odd phenomenon… (I’ve seen the Jays up north!). To see these birds chased to and fro, bullied by the others is very strange. Many others (much more skilled birders) have commented on the behavior, as well — perhaps it’s because we have such larger birds in our area, heh? I also learned about the feathers’ coloring with this post; the Jay feather I keep on my desk shall not be crushed…

      June 18, 2012
  3. Reblogged this on photos4share.

    June 18, 2012
  4. Pam #

    She has beautiful feathers! You captured her so well!

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was very lucky to have her visit with me, so closely (within inches, really). I love their feathers — in all our hikes, I’ve only managed to find ONE jay feather, and it’s right in front of me, at my desk. 🙂

      June 18, 2012
      • Pam #

        That’s exactly the sort of thing I do!

        June 18, 2012
      • 🙂 I can’t tell you how many feathers I’ve collected… I’ve now taken to making things out of some of them, so they’re simply not sitting in a pile of floating about the place!

        June 18, 2012
      • Pam #

        I have clear shoe boxes full of all sorts of nature goodies, ranging from feathers to shells to rocks to just about anything outside. Family calls it my “Nature Room” or Museum!

        June 18, 2012
      • Heh… Sounds VERY familiar! Although I don’t always stash my goodies away (some definitely are — there’s not enough room!). I’m convinced that’s why I insist on the male lugging the backpack. Water, and storage for my findings. 🙂

        June 18, 2012
  5. What perfect captures of these wee beauties. I love Bluejays!! There are a number of them that nest on our property,…. along with a large and varied community of other birdies….

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I love them so much, too… Especially since our Jays are so terribly timid! Just a few weeks ago the babies were out and about in our yard, and the Jays were the last to get dibs at the feeders. So sad! So of course I tried to sneak food to the side, for them specifically… 🙂

      June 18, 2012
  6. Really beautiful pictures!

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was very lucky to have her make a visit so close — within inches! I had to actually back up to get the shots. 🙂

      June 18, 2012
      • Still, great shots 😉 I guess they knew you were going to do them justice 🙂

        June 18, 2012
      • You’re very kind (and I like that thought)!! ♥

        June 18, 2012
  7. Reblogged this on Ashlee Craft's Blog.

    June 18, 2012
  8. That first picture is unreal… world class 🙂 Your work is amazing.

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so much, you’re exceptionally kind! I was VERY lucky to have her visit me so closely — within inches! ♥ She’s a little beauty.

      June 18, 2012
  9. Thanks for the links to Ted’s books. I’ve found that bird feathers “speak” to me. This is a beautiful reminder for me – having lived a good portion of my life in the northeast – the blue jay, clever and pesty, are quite entertaining. I love the crests of this and “my” Stellar’s Jay.
    If you find a feather, will you send it to me? 🙂

    June 18, 2012
    • Absolutely — you’ll love his books! I’m with you on the feathers (as are so many other nature-types!)… They’re all over my place, and a blue jay feather is right in front of me at my desk. 🙂 I actually started making smudge sticks with crystals, because I had gathered so many found feathers. Absolutely, I can send you a feather if I find another — specifically a jay feather?

      June 18, 2012
      • Yes,please, one in which I can identify the bird it came from – and I will send you a special stone, from here, if you’d like one. Let me know… seapunk2@gmail.com

        June 18, 2012
      • Fun! I will definitely send you some feathers… I’ll try to remember which ones I send, to tell you (after you try to guess) which birds they come from. Not sure you’ll have some of these birds in your area though, heh! Send me your addy to kiliki70@gmail.com, and I’ll put a few in the mail! 🙂

        June 19, 2012
  10. Loving your photos – AMAZING!!! Have a Great Day!

    June 18, 2012
    • Thanks so very much! I was really lucky to have her visit with me, so closely. 🙂

      June 19, 2012
  11. What beautiful photos of the Jay! You were clearly blessed to get that opportunity!

    June 19, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was truly VERY lucky to have her visit with me so closely — within inches! ♥ She’s such a little beauty.

      June 19, 2012
  12. I think blue jays are so pretty. 🙂 I get to see some on my walk once in awhile.

    June 19, 2012
    • I love our jays — perhaps even more than normal, because for whatever reason, ours are quite timid! Seeing the shocks of blue in the wetlands is lovely… But I also just spied 2 baby blue jays at my feeder, as the sun rose, before they were chased away by the other birds… 🙂

      June 19, 2012
  13. These are wonderful and just incredibly beautiful photos. Well done! Blue Jays are plentiful at my house and love it when I leave peanuts out for them.

    June 19, 2012
    • Thanks so much! I was incredibly fortunate to have her visit with me, so closely at the wetlands. I actually had to back up to get the shot. 🙂

      I love when the jays visit; just this morning, I had a few baby jays at our feeder — adorable!!

      June 20, 2012
  14. I didn’t know they were related to the crow. I guess they are related to the raven as well, of which we have many. They can speak up a storm, too. Blue jays are everywhere in Texas and they used to swoop down on my cat and even passing cars. Neat photos, Fey. What length lens do you need to really do effective bird photography? I think I asked you that once but forgot.

    June 20, 2012
  15. Thanks much! I adore our jays… They’re *so much* more timid than those in other areas, it’s very odd. They get bullied, chased — so I always feed them on the sidelines (I have baby jays in the yard). Right now I’m using a 55-250, but I need a bit more — usually I go on hikes, which require more telephoto. In this case, she landed right next to me — literally within inches. I had to back up to catch the shot. 🙂 But I’ve been watching Nick’s purchase closely — I was playing with getting a new lens, then a new body. Then… which one?? I had been leaning towards his purchase, a 7D. Perhaps, soon, soon…!

    June 21, 2012
  16. Sheree #

    I’m awestruck by these beautiful images. Immediately I thought, I have to have a copy. Then I considered it my responsibility to get out there and capture my own experience.

    Excuse me if you have the information posted elsewhere, but will you share your background in photography, the camera used, etc.? I will explore your website for more information, but I don’t want my tendency of getting lost on the computer to keep me indoors. Thanks so much for the pictures.

    July 18, 2012
    • Thanks so very much for your exceptionally KIND comments — it truly is an utmost compliment!

      I’ve been researching websites to provide ordering capabilities (as I’ve had a few other requests) — ones that other photographers utilize (for cards, prints, etc.). I need to JUST DO IT, hah! As soon as I do so, I’ll alert everyone on this blog / website with a post… If you’re subscribed, you’ll get an update! I absolutely love this blue jay, and I intend to get a canvas print of her for me, personally (the 2 close-ups). It’s been on my to-do list… 🙂

      I apologize for the lack of photography information — I definitely need to update my About page! I’ve recently moved from a Canon Rebel to a Canon 7D, although you haven’t seen any of these images, yet. I don’t Photoshop the images — my desire is to portray them *exactly* as I witnessed them in their natural state, beautiful and magical as they are.

      July 18, 2012

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