You can’t hear yourself think in the woods lately. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal that, “Silence alone is worthy to be heard, silence is of various depth and fertility, like soil”. Well, he definitely didn’t write that one on an early fall day. The Blue Jays and Crows spend them screaming like banshees!
As fall approaches bird behavior changes quite a bit. During the summer many nesting birds skulk around trying to raise their young inconspicuously. They keep quiet so predators can’t find them. As babies mature, family groups call to one another, fledglings beg for more easy meals. But it’s all pretty much sotto voce.
When the nip of autumn begins, the woods errupt with the raucus sound of crows and jays organizing themselves for the winter. Blue Jays are pretty, and kind of flashy with their bright color scheme and stylish lines. Crows lack the jay’s style, but impress with their size and outsized call. They are both members of the Corvid family of birds, known for their intelligence and mimicry. Crows are among the smartest of birds and are known for their use of tools.
This time of year corvids sort themselves into groups. The job requires alot of calling back and forth, and I’d say the jays take the prize for most loquacious. They have a large repertoire of sounds and calls and they remind me of a motorcycle gang revving their engines as they speed through town.
Crow flocks are different from Blue Jays’. Crows don’t hang out together all day, they just group together at night in a roost. These roosts can contain many thousands of birds, much to the horror of people living near them. The noise is deafening, and the mess-! There are many theories why crows and some other blackbirds roost in this way. It may be for safety, warmth or even a more efficient way of finding of food. There used to be a huge crow roost down by Park Road in Hartford near the highway. You could see crows from all over the county heading for it in the late afternoon. About a year ago, it mysteriously disappeared.
Blue Jays buddy up into smaller groups, and spend the fall careering around eating acorns. They love to visit feeders, and will take suet as well as seed. When folks get sick of feeding maurading gangs of jays, they often bring their feeders in. Don’t bother. The birds check back periodically and once the feeder is out again they recommence their visits. I told you they were smart.
See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist