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April 4, 2014 - 8:11am

An array of winged visitors - some colorful, some tuneful, some silly and a bully or two

posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors.

Despite the up and down weather this year, the bird life has been nothing short of prolific. April has taken up where February and March left off, by offering up a variety of species. Cardinals have been front and center on the color spectrum around here, and will likely remain so until the orioles show up to scour the apple blossoms for insects.

The absence of foliage makes it an opportune time for pics or simply viewing a wide range of species and a flash of red is sure to catch the eye. His tune is easily recognizable, and it seems like he sings best under a blue sky.

Though strikingly handsome, the bluejay is more noisemaker than songster -- they make many sounds, and in the wild are quick to sound the alarm when intruders are about, be it man or beast.

While not as colorful, the white-breasted nuthatch is quite entertaining and almost comical with its trademark upside down movement.

It can be hard to distinguish between the purple finch and the house finch -- with so much red I'm thinking purple.....is that an oxymoron?!

A classic case of frost beak -- the avian equivalent of frostbite......honest :)

Many of the species share at the feeder, or, at the very least take turns, flitting back and forth between the feeder and the trees......that isn't the case with the bluejays......

The bluejays tend to be a bit of a bully at the bird feeder..... but whereas the smaller birds simply wait nearby while the bluejay gorges itself.........

When the grackles show up the songbirds tend to give them a wide berth, usually vacating the premises altogether. We had a large flock of grackles descend on us last week, and it reminded me of a couple tidbits I want to share with you in my next post.

Jason Crater
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Top notch as always. Thanks for sharing!

Elizabeth Downie
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Beautiful shots, Jim! "We had a large flock of grackles descend on us last week, and it reminded me of a couple tidbits I want to share with you in my next post." Now I'm dying with curiosity!!

JIM NIGRO
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Thanks, Jason.....I've been meaning to ask, how did your deer season turn out?

Jason Crater
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Thanks for asking! It went well, I've got a freezer full of meat. No trophies, but lots of good eatin'!

JIM NIGRO
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Thank you, Elizabeth - to further whet your curiosity, you might say it will be a case of "what goes around comes around".....and in one instance, perhaps even a bit of admiration for the pesky grackle.

JIM NIGRO
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Good job, Jason - winter's a great time to have the freezer stocked....venison steak, tenderloins, backstraps, burger, stew, sausage, etc. Enjoy!!

Robert Overfield
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now I'm hungry

Julie Morales
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Gorgeous fluffy tummy on that blue jay.

I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment of the blue jays as bullies, Jim. I think they are tragically misunderstood. Their larger size of course will make them appear threatening to smaller birds, however; I have never witnessed a blue jay behave aggressively to any bird, including a red bellied woodpecker and a mourning dove who both acted out against him violently when he innocently tried to get to the feeders they were hogging. Yes, a mourning dove.

Once I saw a blue jay crash land on the deck railing and yell really loud…all the other birds took off but he wasn’t being aggressive or mean. I think he was just feeling happy to get some peanuts.

Those purple finches above look more like menacing troublemakers to me, especially the one in the middle.

I do agree the blue jays are strikingly handsome…personally I’d say they are the most handsome and my favorite beautiful misjudged bird.

I love waking up to their sweet cooing.

Lovely pics, Jim.

JIM NIGRO
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Thanks, Julie - glad you liked the photos.

While I can't recall seeing a bluejay actually get aggressive to the point of striking another, smaller, bird, I do believe they will "throw their weight around." Over the years I have seen them repeatedly come into the side of the feeder where said smaller birds were feeding, while the opposite side was vacant. It looked to me like the jay might be somewhat territorial and not wanting to lose any more of its free handout to competitors. I've seen that happen too often to be considered coincidence or happenstance.

Make no mistake, the Bluejay is no shrinking violet.They will gang up on a predator, like a hawk or owl, make repeated passes or swipes while sounding a constant alarm.

There was a time when I found the bluejay to far more annoying than at the bird feeder - usually when trying to remain undetected in the autumn woods. Many a bowhunter refers to the bluejay, in addition to gray and red squirrels, as nature's tattle tales.

Once, while helping a friend track a deer in the autumn woodlands south of Batavia, I came across a dead bluejay. It appeared not to have been dead long and its head had been sliced off clean. Great Horned owls are known to sometimes decapitate with a razor sharp bill. I smiled at the thought of an irate owl being roused from its daytime slumber, flying from its roost and silencing a noisy bluejay the only way it could.

On the bluejay's behalf, they are known to plant seeds and acorns and not return for them, making the jay something of a tree planter/conservationist.

Without a doubt Bluejays are pleasing to the eye and many people I know love them. I'm just beginning to.

Julie Morales
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Hey Jim, I’m no authority on bird behavior, I can only relate my personal observations. I’ve heard crows as well as very persistent chickadees alert to predators, specifically hawks. I would imagine the birds themselves are much more likely to recognize predator alerts than I am…probably plenty of birds and other critters “tattle” when they know their lives are in danger.

Hawks and other animal predators were designed to kill; prey was designed to try to survive. That’s their instinct…survival. Who wants to be killed and eaten? They weren’t given tools to fight back…all they have is a warning system. Seems to me a bit cruel to hold that against them.

You say that blue jays are “tattletales” to warn others of approaching predators which to me refutes the idea of them being bullies…why act benevolently toward their fellow prey, only to turn around and behave badly? The blue jays I’ve observed are like avian comedians…crash landing on feeders, beguilingly feigning innocence and otherwise looking charming and adorable. Yes…I love blue jays. :]

As far as commiserating with the decapitating hawk, I can’t relate….but I do wonder what kind of predator – besides man – would deliberately waste its kill.

kevin kretschmer
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Another LSP pic I thought you'd appreciate, Jim. Wendall Ackerman gets some of the most amazing nature shots of the park of anyone in the area.

https://scontent-b-ord.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-frc1/t1.0-9/1001926_13861991...

JIM NIGRO
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Thanks, Kevin - By the way, thanks to your "Googly - Moogly" page (did I get that right?!) I have come across some great nature/outdoor pics, courtesy of yourself, Dick Thomas, et. al. Always awesome stuff!

p.s. Have you been giving Art miracle-gro?!!

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