On a short hike across the north-facing slope below Sunset Peak in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains of western Montana the other day I came across a total of ten of these medium sized grouse whose species inhabits all of Canada and just the northernmost parts of the United States. Had I been a predator that day, I would have been well fed because they behave as their nickname implies, rather foolishly, letting me get within a few feet of them before they flew, depending to an amazing degree just on their camouflage alone. They weigh about a pound to a pound and a half and I have found them to be delicious.
As I walked along a road this morning I heard the loud cry of a Red-tailed Hawk, so loud that I knew it must be close; but look as I would I couldn’t locate the caller. Then I caught sight of a bird about 30 feet away that I had been searching for earlier, one rarely seen in this area and when I focused on him I could see that it was he who was making the call.
Cornell’s website All About Birds enabled me to identify the caller as a Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), a bird found only west of the Rocky Mountains and in the section of “sounds” on the site there was a call they noted as “mimicking Red-tailed Hawk”.
This morning when I first caught a glimpse of this little one through the fog I thought I was just seeing a leaf in the top of a bare chokecherry. He is about the size of a sparrow and weighs only two ounces.
(If you are interested, you can find more information about him here .)