SE Colorado Birding

Birding and discussion: A conservation-oriented birding blog that emphasizes low-impact birding and sustainable birding practices together with the enjoyment of birds. Southeast Colorado offers a diversity of habitats which provide premiere birding opportunities. Save Sabal Palm

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Pinyon Jay creche (like a nursery for fledglings)

Photo by Dave Menke--Courtesy of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While doing surveys for one of my BBA-II routes today, I found a Pinyon Jay creche (basically a baby nursery where the fledglings gather together to wait while parent birds are out foraging). I spotted the first flegling, with it's reddish mouth lining and yellow corners), in a pinyon pine tree. Though fledglings are capable of, and are supposed to, remain quiet (so as not to attract predators) this young bird was calling loudly to be fed.

As I read in "Birds of North America online" (BNA), there are several adult birds that sit quiet in nearby vegetation and guard over the creche. After I spotted this fledgling, I could hear some vocalization from the inside of other pinyons and junipers in the area, presumably adult birds warning the fledglings that some bipedal critter was in the area and might eat them. Other than the begging fledgling, all the other communication I heard was quite soft in volumn as the jays in the nearby trees communicated with each other.

I would never have guessed there were 10 or so jays, some adults and others fledglings, in nearby trees all around me as they had been sitting quietly when I arrived. They were quiet stealthy, making quiet calls from the inner branches of trees then when I was looking another way one would fly past allowing me only a glimpse. Of course, I was also trying to be stealthy, moving as quietly as I could (likely sounded like a herd of horses to the jays) as I also moved from tree to tree also trying to use the branches to obscure my profile. Clearly my efforts were unsuccessful as the adult jays moved the fledglings to more distant trees away from my prying eyes.

I had thought I heard Pinyon Jays in this same location a few weeks ago but all I heard were a few short and quiet calls. Though Pinyon Jays can be exceptionally loud with alarm calls that can be heard more than a mile away per BNA, they can be very quiet especially when nesting. The area they are in is pinyon-juniper habitat, which was where the overwhelming majority were found during the BBA-I surveying, but these were only a few hundred yards from a outlying residential area where someone likely feeds them.

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