Steller’s jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by 33 year old Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746) a German naturalist on Vitus Bering’s last expedition. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, he named it after Steller.
If Steller the man was anything like Steller the jay, he was a medium-sized guy, kind of poor mannered. When he ate he pushed the food he didn’t like off the plate and picked out the good stuff and made a real mess.
He would have been the kind of person that might cut in line, and be sort of noisy, and he’d have some bad hair, with a hunk of it that stuck straight up.
About seven years ago when returning from a day of drag racing at the Forks airport, I was driving home feeling kind of racy but not speeding by any means. As I went around the last corner before my house a shot of blue caught my eye and then I heard a thump, I had hit something. A look in my rearview mirror showed a Steller’s jay lying in the road.
I turned around and got out and it just laid there. I reached down to pick it up and it attached itself to my finger.
Getting back in the car with a bird stuck to my finger I put the car in gear with a bird stuck to my finger and drove several blocks with a bird still stuck to my finger.
Once home the bird still clung to my finger, after about half an hour my finger was going numb so I removed it to the handle of a wheelbarrow that was in the woodshed. I fed it in the woodshed for several days and in that short time we bonded and it became a regular visitor on my deck. The bird couldn’t sue me so it just made me feel guilty for hitting it with my car so I felt obligated to feed it, it was easy to recognize, it was always puffed up looking, fluffier than the other Steller’s jays.
A while later I began to hear the call of an eagle every time I was outside. At my house this is not a good thing, having lost 23 ducks in one summer to bald eagles. Finally I realized it was no eagle — it was that puffed up Steller’s jay. Had the blow from my bumper caused this poor bird to have multiple personality disorder?
Over the years I have grown fond of this ill-mannered bird, even when it hits the window demanding peanuts or looks at me through the skylight until I feed it.
Saturday before last I heard a commotion in the trees and there was my puffed up Steller’s jay going at it with a hawk, the hawk would dive, the jay would weave and then they were gone.
For the next week there was no Steller’s jay, I mourned the loss of that obnoxious bird, remembering our good times, well, the bird had a good time I was a servant.
Then on Sunday I heard an old familiar sound, the sound of a bird smashing up against my kitchen window, it was back, where had it been? Convalescing? Better treats down the street? I don’t know, I guess I am happy it’s back.
The oldest Steller’s jay on record was 16 years old, I better stock up on peanuts.