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Another Bluejay Incident

Joseph Mailliard
Publication Information
6 (November-December)
PDF icon p0126-p0126.pdf92.67 KB

Another Bluejay Incident.

In connection with the notes that appeared in the March-April and May-June numbers of the current volume of THE CONDOR concerning jays burying food I would like to mention a curious case of this sort that happened yesterday only a few yards from my creamery.

A Blue-fronted Jay, (Cyanacitta s. frontalis) was seen to fly to the ground from a small tree about twenty yards distant with a bay nut in his beak. After fussing around for a short time he chose a spot in the dry grass on a little hillside, either found a hole or made one, and stuck in the nut. After covering it over with a little loose earth he brought several lumps of dirt, one by one, from a radius of several feet, placed them on top of the nut and packed them down well. Satisfied with his work he flew back toward his tree. Before he even reached it, however, a California Jay (Aphelocoma californica), which had been watching the proceedings from a neighboring bush, flew down, resurrected the nut and flew off with it in triumph. By rights there should have been a fight, but there was no indication of dissatisfaction on the part of the original owner of the prize who allowed the thief to carry it off unmolested.

The question naturally arises as to why the California Jay should have stolen the nut. There were plenty of them still on the bay trees and lots on the ground under them, all to be had for the gathering. If he liked nut sprouts, worms or wormy flavors he could have waited and taken the chance of digging it up before the depositor thought of it again, or he could have gathered a lot more and buried them himself.

As both kinds of jays eat these nuts fresh, getting at the kernel by hammering the shell with their bills as they hold the nut against a horizontal limb until it splits open, it appears curious that they should bury it at all. It seems as if the Blue-fronted Jay had buried it either to keep it moist for a while or as a matter of provision for the future, though these nuts lie on the ground for a long time in a good state of prcservation, or in fact until they are eaten up by squirrels and birds, or buried by natural processes. It also seems as if the California Jay had stolen the nut either out of pure mischief or actual spite.


San Geronimo, Cal., 10-20, '00

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