Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Gray Jay - A Legendary Thief of Hearts

The mischievous gray jay

The formidable Rocky Mountains are an imposing hideout for one of Colorado's most notorious outlaws, the gray jay. Upon entering its dark territory of spruce and fir, beware because this legendary camp robber isn't afraid to steal your food, your patience or your heart.

Blessed with boundless curiosity, the gray jay will investigate even the slightest disturbance in a subalpine forest. It scrutinizes the camper intensely and follows the hiker closely, waiting to see what happens next. If you offer one of them a bite of food, they will boldly pluck the treat right out of your hand. You'll also acquire a friend for life.

Early fur traders appreciated the gray jay's companionship during lonely treks into the outback but they resented the bird's relentless thievery. The jays were experts at stealing the bait from their snares, often committing the crime before the trapper had turned his back.

The gray jay will consume anything that's edible and certain goods that are not. It eats everything from insects, berries and small mammals to soap, candles and tobacco. But who could blame them, the gray jay is a year-round resident in one of the harshest environments on earth. Surviving winter at tree line requires a bountiful supply of prepared reserves.

Most of the stuff swiped during the summer is cached for later use during lean times. The gray jay has special salivary glands that transform a mouthful of food into a gooey, sticky ball of future nourishment. Up to 1,000 of these tasty morsels are hidden throughout the area each day. The bird adheres them to bark, branches and pine needles. An extraordinary memory is called upon to later recover the valuable merchandise.

Some people find their obnoxious behavior to become tiresome and consider the bird a nuisance. Not me, compared to the extreme shyness of other mountain dwellers, I believe the sociable gray jay's mischievous antics are a delightful change of pace. Up here good guys finish last.

A notorious outlaw

They live in spruce and fir forests

They're blessed with boundless curiosity

The gray jay lives at tree line year-round

A legendary camp robber

A friend for life

Gray jays will consume anything edible

Up here good guys finish last

4 comments:

  1. Love this post Dan -I think we may have some gray jays on the bike path - I'll have to keep my eye out for them.

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    1. Thanks Judi, as you know, I love birds. It was a fun day hiking up the mountain and interacting with the charming Gray Jays.

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  2. During my recent camping at the foot of Mount Evans, had a whole clan of these noisy birds around the campsite. Fun birds, though!

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    1. Oh, they love it when campers come into their territory. Some people consider them a nuisance but I like their personality. They have to be tough to live up there all year round. I hope you're able to make it back to Colorado soon.

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