THE BUSY BLUE JAY





Olive Thorne Miller













One of the most interesting birds who ever lived in my Bird Room was a

blue jay named Jakie. He was full of business from morning till night,

scarcely ever a moment still.



Poor little fellow! He had been stolen from the nest before he could

fly, and reared in a house, long before he was given to me. Of course

he could not be set free, for he did not know how to take care of

himself.



Jays are very active birds, and being shut up in a room, my blue jay

had to find things to do, to keep himself busy. If he had been allowed

to grow up out of doors, he would have found plenty to do, planting

acorns and nuts, nesting, and bringing up families.



Sometimes the things he did in the house were what we call mischief

because they annoy us, such as hammering the woodwork to pieces,

tearing bits out of the leaves of books, working holes in chair seats,

or pounding a cardboard box to pieces. But how is a poor little bird to

know what is mischief?



Many things which Jakie did were very funny. For instance, he made it

his business to clear up the room. When he had more food than he could

eat at the moment, he did not leave it around, but put it away

carefully,--not in the garbage pail, for that was not in the room, but

in some safe nook where it did not offend the eye. Sometimes it was

behind the tray in his cage, or among the books on the shelf. The

places he liked best were about me,--in the fold of a ruffle or the

loop of a bow on my dress, and sometimes in the side of my slipper. The

very choicest place of all was in my loosely bound hair. That of course

I could not allow, and I had to keep a very close watch of him for fear

I might have a bit of bread or meat thrust among my locks. In his

clearing up he always went carefully over the floor, picking up pins or

any little thing he could find, and I often dropped burnt matches,

buttons, and other small things to give him something to do. These he

would pick up and put nicely away.



Pins, Jakie took lengthwise in his beak, and at first I thought he had

swallowed them, till I saw him hunt up a proper place to hide them. The

place he chose was between the leaves of a book. He would push a pin

far in out of sight, and then go after another. A match he always tried

to put in a crack, under the baseboard, between the breadths of

matting, or under my rockers. He first placed it, and then tried to

hammer it out of sight. He could seldom get it in far enough to suit

him, and this worried him. Then he would take it out and try another

place.



Once the blue jay found a good match, of the parlor match variety. He

put it between the breadths of matting, and then began to pound on it

as usual. Pretty soon he hit the unburnt end and it went off with a

loud crack, as parlor matches do. Poor Jakie jumped two feet into the

air, nearly frightened out of his wits; and I was frightened, too, for

I feared he might set the house on fire.



Often when I got up from my chair a shower of the bird's playthings

would fall from his various hiding-places about my dress,-nails,

matches, shoe-buttons, bread-crumbs, and other things. Then he had to

begin his work all over again.



Jakie liked a small ball or a marble. His game was to give it a hard

peck and see it roll. If it rolled away from him, he ran after it and

pecked again; but sometimes it rolled toward him, and then he bounded

into the air as if he thought it would bite. And what was funny, he was

always offended at this conduct of the ball, and went off sulky for a

while.



He was a timid little fellow. Wind or storm outside the windows made

him wild. He would fly around the room, squawking at the top of his

voice; and the horrible tin horns the boys liked to blow at

Thanksgiving and Christmas drove him frantic. Once I brought a

Christmas tree into the room to please the birds, and all were

delighted with it except my poor little blue jay, who was much afraid

of it. Think of the sadness of a bird being afraid of a tree!













Jakie had decided opinions about people who came into the room to see

me, or to see the birds. At some persons he would squawk every moment.

Others he saluted with a queer cry like "Ob-ble! ob-ble! ob-ble!" Once

when a lady came in with a baby, he fixed his eyes on that infant with

a savage look as if he would like to peck it, and jumped back and forth

in his cage, panting, but perfectly quiet.



Jakie was very devoted to me. He always greeted me with a low, sweet

chatter, with wings quivering, and if he were out of the cage he would

come on the back of my chair and touch my cheek or lips very gently

with his beak, or offer me a bit of food if he had any; and to me

alone, when no one else was near, he sang a low, exquisite song. I

afterwards heard a similar song sung by a wild blue jay to his mate

while she was sitting, and so I knew that my dear little captive had

given me his sweetest--his love song.



One of Jakie's amusements was dancing across the back of a tall chair,

taking funny little steps, coming down hard, "jouncing" his body, and

whistling as loud as he could. He would keep up this funny performance

as long as anybody would stand before him and pretend to dance, too.



My jay was fond of a sensation. One of his dearast bits of fun was to

drive the birds into a panic. This he did by flying furiously around

the room, feathers rustling, and squawking as loud as he could. He

usually managed to fly just over the head of each bird, and as he came

like a catapult, every one flew before him, so that in a minute the

room was full of birds flying madly about trying to get out of his way.

This gave him great pleasure.



Wild blue jays, too, like to stir up their neighbors. A friend told me

of a small party of blue jays that she saw playing this kind of a joke

on a flock of birds of several kinds, robins, catbirds, thrashers, and

others. These birds were gathering the cherries on the top branches of

a big cherry tree. The jays sat quietly on another tree till the cherry

eaters were very busy eating. Then suddenly the mischievous blue rogues

would all rise together and fly at them, as my pet did at the birds in

the room. It had the same effect on the wild birds; they all flew in a

panic. Then the joking jays would return to their tree and wait till

their victims forgot their fear and came straggling back to the

cherries, when they repeated the fun.



Once a grasshopper got into the Bird Room, probably brought in clinging

to some one's dress in the way grasshoppers do. Jakie was in his cage,

but he noticed the stranger instantly, and I opened the door for him.

He went at once to look at the grasshopper, and when it hopped he was

so startled that he hopped, too. Then he picked the insect up, but he

did not know what to do with it, so he dropped it again. Again the

grasshopper jumped directly up, and again the jay did the same. This

they did over and over, till every one was tired laughing at them. It

looked as if they were trying to see who could jump the higher.



There was another bird in the room, however, who knew what grasshoppers

were good for. He was an orchard oriole, and after looking on for a

while, he came down and carried off the hopper to eat. The jay did not

like to lose his plaything; he ran after the thief, and stood on the

floor giving low cries and looking on while the oriole on a chair was

eating the dead grasshopper. When the oriole happened to drop it,

Jakie--who had got a new idea of what to do with grasshoppers--snatched

it up and carried it under a chair and finished it.



I could tell many more stories about my bird, but I have told them

before in one of my "grown-up" books, so I will not repeat them here.





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