The Busy Blue Jay
: BIRD DAY
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
BY OLIVE THORNE MILLER (ADAPTED)
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
o 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 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 in
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
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 silent.
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
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 dearest 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.
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 highest.
There was another bird in the room, however, who knew what grasshoppers
were good for. He was an orchard oriole, and after looking on awhile,
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 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.