The Bird Corner

Nominating the bold blue jay

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 7:30pm

Block Island has always been a wonderful spot to go birding, not only because the island is an important stopover during migration, but due to the many species that live here.

At the Block Island School, we are following the tradition started by Elizabeth Dickens, who began the bird program at the School in the early 1900s. We are grateful to Kim Gaffett for continuing it.

Each year, Mrs. Szabo includes a bird unit in her fourth grade class, and asks her students to choose a bird they think will best make the “Block Island Bird of the Year.” Through nature walks, bird banding with Miss Gaffett, and research, each student chose a bird they believe best represents Block Island.

This is the ninth in a series


It is a nice day on Block Island. There are birds peacefully eating at your bird feeder. “Caw caw!” What is that?! It sounds like a red tailed hawk. The birds at the feeder scatter in fright. But wait, it is just the expert mimic, the blue jay! Blue jays are really smart and that is why they can mimic a hawk. Blue jays are found in parks and suburban areas and are frequent guests to your bird feeder. There are a lot of bird feeders here on the island and that is why you are likely to see the blue jay on Block Island.

The blue jay is the largest blue songbird in the east, and it has a prominent crest. The size of the blue jay is 11 inches long and it has a violet blue crest on its head. They have violet blue on upper parts of their body and gray-white on under parts. Also, the female looks similar to the male. As the blue jay gets older, it gets brighter. Its prominent crest sticks up when it is mad and lays down when it is happy. The blue jay is close to the size of a teacup and it is known to be a beautiful perching bird that likes shiny things. Blue jays are also known for their raucous call and lots of personality.

Blue jays basically eat anything including mice and younger birds of different kinds. They also eat eggs or nestlings, but they are largely a vegetarian bird. They are omnivores and prefer to eat conifer seeds, nuts, peanuts in shell, sunflower seeds, and corn. That is why if you have a bird feeder on Block Island you have a good chance of seeing one.

The blue jay would make an awesome bird to represent Block Island because they are known for their intelligence and complex social systems, with tight family bonds, just like Block Islanders! Blue jays are usually seen at parks, urban gardens and woodland areas. They are often seen in high trees. Their nests, which are usually made out of sticks and lined with grass, are mostly in the crotch of a conifer tree 10 to 25 feet above the ground. There are often trees nearby. The male and female build their nest together. There are usually about two to seven eggs in one clutch and the eggs are spotted and greenish. The egg’s size is about one inch long and less than an inch wide. The Incubation period of the eggs is about 16 to 18 days long and they fledge three weeks later. The mother cares for the young more than the father and they lay one brood a year.

I think the blue jay is the best bird to represent Block Island because it is beautiful, smart, and very interesting. It also has lots of personality and loves its family just like Block Islanders! I hope if you see a blue jay at your bird feeder, its crest is down so you know it is happy. I hope the beautiful bright blue feathers remind you of the ocean and Block Island.