They’re beautiful. They’re bold and tough. I’ve always enjoyed watching their looping, swooping flight.
They’re also noisy to a fault; calling them aggressive understates the case. They’re opportunists of the first order, and if something weaker gives them an opening — like the towhees that built a nest next to our house last year only to watch a jay raid it and smash the eggs — they exploit it instantly. I tried to chase away the jay last year, but it was a lot better at its business that I was. It’s instinct, I know, not Karl Rove-like calculation, that drives the birds’ behavior (and I apologize to the birds, even if they’re mere beasts, for comparing them in any way to Karl Rove).
This spring, a couple of western scrub jays have built a nest within a couple of feet of the one the towhees abandoned, with prejudice, last year. We can just see the new nest near the top of a potato bush growing along the side of our back porch: just a non-descript bundle of sticks. But a couple of jays have been back and forth from that spot for a good couple weeks. It’s too high to see into, and well enough screened that it was hard to see whether there were any eggs up there.
Yesterday, one of the jays flew over my head to the nest. I could hear some weak little chirping. The new jays were hatched. Today, that chirping is a little louder. Now I find myself rooting for this little clutch of birds, even if they’re going to turn out to be a bunch of heartless (if handsome) marauders.
[The picture: That’s one of the parent scrub jays on our back porch this afternoon, along with genuine salvaged Wrigley Field seats, an extension cord, and other flotsam.]