The Bird Word: Big Blue Bullies

She Speaks to Birds: Conversations With a Stellar’s Jay
By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

My bird feeding station sits on my front porch, right outside my living room window. I can sit in my lounger and watch the birds to my left, my television is to my right. They can perch on the feeding trough and look in and watch me.

This hard-to-miss big blue bird, the Stellar’s Jay, is almost camouflaged by the blue sky and the shadows in the branches of the walnut tree. His classic crested silhouette and loud voice makes him an easy spot for the beginning birder. (Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle)

Birds that are new to the neighborhood or who are just passing through can be scared away when they spot someone or some dog moving through the house. The resident birds know who I am and what my purpose is — I’m the seeds and nuts lady. Seeing movement behind the glass doesn’t bother them a bit.

The Stellar’s Jays flock in droves to the walnut trees in my backyard every fall. Several stay throughout the rest of the year. I assume they stay because nuts are plentiful in my feeders and they have come to depend upon the variety of nuts I offer.

I’ve captured pictures of them with up to five shelled peanuts lined up in their bills at once. I love watching these greedy blue birds perch on the side of the trough with a large almond placed carefully between their bird toes as they chip away at the nut with their beaks, breaking them into bite-sized pieces.

I buy the squirrel nut mixes loaded with filberts, walnuts, cashews, almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts, and only put out a cup at a time. I didn’t want to spoil the jays, but apparently it’s too late. I’ve spoiled them.

I ran out of nuts last week, and they let me hear about it.

I watched as a jay flew in and landed at the feeder. He looked down into the empty trough, looked up, looked down, and looked back up again. He was looking at me. “Where are the nuts?” he seemed to say.

I thought to myself, “Well, that’s enough anthropomorphizing of these darn birds. That’s just silly. Surely he isn’t talking to me.”

Then he scolded me with a loud and grating “kresh, kresh, kresh!” just before he flew off in a huff.

What does he think this is, a drive-up window where he can order nuts to go?

Apparently so, he was back in 30 minutes to repeat the process. I started to feel bullied after the fourth time he flew in. But I fooled him. I waited until the fifth visit before I grabbed the car keys to make a run to the feed store.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer who enjoys watching and photographing the wildlife in action in her own backyard in Cinebar. Contact her via e-mail at