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”.
That’s the kind of jay we have here on the coast. We don’t have the eastern bluejay but we have Steller’s jays. They’re beautiful and you’ve captured some nice shots of this one. Looks so pretty in the snow.
Great shot of this jay I have never seen. I have heard Eastern Bluejays mimic the screech of hawks. My favorite mimc is performed by the Yellow Breasted chat when it mimics a flock of crows calling. I too looked and looked for the crows only to realize it was a Yellow Breasted Chat in the tree above me.
This jay resides quite a ways west of you I think. I’m astounded by the variety of calls that birds make. I’m very used to hearing eagles discuss things among themselves and I picked up on the Red-tail’s (I thought) voice right away. What a surprise to hear it come from the jay.
I was so excited yesterday, after grocery shopping I zipped around the park to see if Mr. Eagle was there, and instead saw 4 swans!! I drove/sped to my house to grab my camera, and in the brief 90 seconds I was gone, they flew away. I was sooooo bummed. I totally forgot I could have used my phone, but I thought they would stick around for at least a few more minutes. Seeing swan here is as rare a treat as seeing the eagle. Your winter is chuck full of surprise visitors, how fun to see that little owl and now this jay. :)
Comment by Homestead Ramblings — December 29, 2012 @ 7:36 am
Oh what a beautiful bird. How lucky for you to not only see and hear it but to get such a great shot as well. I only have sparrows here in town, brown and boring but cute as well. Especially when they approach the window to torment the cat!
Steller’s Jays live in New Mexico, too — we saw one in the Jemez at Battleship Rock last fall – like the Pinon and Scrub Jays, are scroungers who get used to stealing food from picnics, bold ones who even walk on picnic tables. The one we saw came and perched on a Ponderosa high but close enough to get a view of what we were eating.
Which reminds me, in time of drought, seems like wild birds get affected as well – their food supplies deplete. I have been watching huge flocks of Crows devour pecans from a grove nearby and seem to have stripped it clean. Haven’t noticed them doing it before this year quite at this frenzy.
We have scrub jays, green jays and blue jays, but no Stellar’s. I did smile at your being “fooled”, though. For some time I kept hearing a beautiful, musical call, and didn’t have a clue what it was. I thought it might have been a creative mockingbird. Turns out it was the blue jay! Here’s a nice link that has their various calls and songs all lined up.
Steller’s live just to the west of you from what I’ve read. Once every year or so a blue jay will visit here and even the Steller’s is a rare visitor locally. The nutcrackers though take their place and hold up the jay traditions very well. Every summer I spend an hour or so on a perch just off a favorite trail where the mountain peak is still nearly a thousand feet above and the cliff bottom almost that far below. The Nutcrackers will sail past in a power dive from above and then turn and sit on the tops of firs a dozen yards away. I wish so much that I could do that.
Over the years we have had a lot of these jays here in Clark Fork, Idaho. They used to pick up hazelnuts from our neighbors tree and bring them to our brick wall and crack them open and eat them.We also have Red-Tailed hawks around Antelope mountain here in C F . Thanks for the beautiful photo..
Frances from Idaho
Comment by Anonymous — December 29, 2012 @ 12:07 pm
I’ve read that they use that call to alert other jays to the presence of a hawk, but the one I heard was solitary. I wonder if perhaps mimicking the call of a Red-tail might be to keep other smaller hawks away.
The telephoto lens that I have is a Nikon 70-300mm VR. These shots were hand-held. Seems like I never have the time to use a tripod, but the VR really works well, especially when there is enough light to enable a fast shutter speed.
Wow, I didn’t know that Jays could mimic other birds. I know Mockingbirds do but had never heard about Jays. Will have to learn more about that. We have Western Scrub Jays and when I’m in the Sierra we see the Stellars Jays. Both are agressive and fun to watch.
This guy has been hanging around an area just up the road from me and I’ve been around him several times. I first pick up on his hawk imitation, but then I’ve heard a variety of other vocalizations. Pretty cool bird!
how wonderful that you thought you heard a red tail and that these birds can sound like them.
we saw some of these jays this autumn and none of us could remember seeing them here before. lovely photos.
He’s a handsome bird. I never see bluebirds of any type here in AZ. I love Cornell’s website, too, for bird ID-ing. It’s always so fun to be able to identify what you just saw. That’s one of the best things about having the internet at our disposal.
Oh my goodness, that Stellar’s Jay is….well…stellar! So pretty. We have a bird feeder on one of our maple trees near the house and the other day there were 5 cardinals there. I got so excited and grabbed my camera. Well, first off, I scared them away in my excitement. Then I patiently stood quiet as could be in the falling snow and waited until they returned. But I need a telephoto lens because I couldn’t get close enough to get a close-up of them. Maybe I’ll ask Santa for a telephoto for next year’s Christmas present? Any suggestions?
I envy you seeing the cardinals. One will visit here only every few years.
There are a lot of good lenses out there. The one I use, and I really like it, is a Nikon 70-300mm VR. It gives nice clear pictures and I especially like the vibration reduction because nearly all of the pictures I take are hand-held.
What a beautiful bird, Steller’s Jay. I haven’t seen this Jay before and sounds like a red-tailed hawk. The red-tailed hawk is a favorite of mine and for awhile this year, I had one that was practically a resident and it went after the Blue Jays. I would love to see the Steller’s Jay and hear it. Really great shots, Montucky!
I saw the jay again today and he was using his hawk call. I bet he uses that call to confuse the hawks. He seems to have a number of other calls as well. I’ve been able to keep him in sight long enough to listen to severl of them.
Wow, the jays do mimic the red-tailed hawk rather well. Both species are plentiful in my location. I really enjoy the call of the red-tailed hawk. It is one of my favorite animal sounds. On the other hand the stellar jays tend to be quite noisy and some of their vocalizations can get on my nerves after a while. I have never noticed this mimic sound before. I will have to listen for it now. Great photos!