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Blue Jay Fledgling & Parents' Behavior

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Old Friday 12th July 2019, 18:45   #1
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Unhappy Blue Jay Fledgling & Parents' Behavior


Trigger alert: this question is about a fledgling who actually passed away...

I've been providing peanuts on my window sill for a flock of urban Blue Jays in Queens, NY for about 18 months. I think they are incredible.

Over the past 6 weeks, they've been having babies and I've been able to observe their fledglings & flight school at a respectful distance. Obviously, they mob anybody and anything that gets near their babies.

Since Tuesday, I've observed two fledgling in the same area. Last night, a storm rolled in and I observed both babies under a tree. I've been trying very hard to maintain a distance so as to not trigger their parents & stress them and the babies out. However, it was raining and they were quite hidden. In searching for them, I did trigger their parents and I enjoyed a swift & loud mobbing. I was very satisfied that the babies were safe, the parents' tenacity in protecting their babies held up in the rain and felt more assured they'd make it through the night.

This morning, one of the babies had passed away and his little body was still under the tree. I did not see the other baby. I had a handful of peanuts (irrational, I know.. but I've been putting them in trees closer to the flight school as if they Jays don't already have a cache somewhere...) and I got about 8 feet away from the baby. The parents flew into the tree above the baby, their crests were down and their vocalizations were sparse & very deep/low. In other words, they were not mobbing me or screaming. I watched them engaged in this behavior for like 90 seconds, dropped my offering of peanuts and moved about 40 feet away and they eventually flew into another nearby tree...

I am very sad. I hope they didn't lose their other baby. I'm curious if anybody else has observed any similar or different behavior from Jays around deceased fledglings.

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Old Friday 12th July 2019, 19:03   #2
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Somewhat similar behavior has been recorded for California Scrub-jays. Google “Scrub-jay funerals” and you’ll get lots of hits.

A “trigger warning” for the mere mention of a dead bird? Please, restore my faith in humanity and say you were joking . . ..
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Old Friday 12th July 2019, 19:32   #3
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Hi chaosburger and a warm welcome to you from those of us on staff here at BirdForum.

I'm sorry to hear what you witnessed and in all the years that I have been birding, thankfully, I have never witnessed something like this. Thanks for taking care of your birdlife.
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Old Monday 15th July 2019, 14:37   #4
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Thank you KC for the warm welcome and reply.
Thank you fugly for the the tip on Scrub Jay funerals -- I had never read about that before. Fascinating! Really appreciate that.

The other Jay also did not make it. 24 hours later, my spouse located the second one nearby the first. I find it a little perplexing as to why their remains were left unperturbed apart from flies congregating. It seems like there are quite a few predators/others who seem like they would eat a baby bird if available, in the area. I've seen hawks (but they Jays always mob them). Occasionally, I will see a huge raven. There are two extremely well-off seeming indoor-outdoor cats whom I see sleeping on top of and under a Mercedes-Benz in a driveway approx 50 feet away from the site I've been describing as 'Flight School'. It seems weird these cats DON'T go after birds. I have also seen raccoons in this area.

Thanks again for the replies! Hope everyone had a great weekend.
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