While walking back from the Cambridge Railway station yesterday (1 May 2017), having renewed my National Railcard, I saw a most fascinating bird that I have seen previously on only a few occasions – the Jay.
Largely brown, the (Eurasian) Jay has a patch of electric blue on its wings that stands out. A fairly noisy bird, the Jay was perched near a wall across from the chapel Our Lady and English Martyrs (OLEM), Cambridge. When a friend of mine called me Mjay (an innovative take on the more usual MJ for Mrittunjoy) the very same day, later on, I took upon myself the task of getting to know this bird a little better.
The Jay is a passerine bird: a bird suited for perching, with its leg having three front facing toes and one back facing toe, as seen in the picture above. Jays are found in Europe, parts of the Middle East and Russia, and eastern China, primarily. These birds are usually found in Oak woods, farmlands, beech woods, broadleaf forests, coniferous forests and even in urban areas.
Jays have a liking for acorn and a natural tendency of collecting and storing them. In terms of general food habits, Jays are opportunists and make-do with whatever is available in abundance, be it beetles, caterpillars or even the young of other smaller birds!
Figure: Stellar’s Jay
In popular lore, Jays are taken as noisy and dumb. In American slang, Jay is someone who chats impertinently. It also sometimes refers to a gullible person. Jaywalking refers to the act of crossing a road carelessly and becoming a traffic hazard. Even with all these negative connotations, the Jays are some of the most diverse, colourful group of Corvids. The Blue Jays even symbolise royalty!
And not to forget, if there ever was a symbol of initiative, perseverance and adaptation, it has to be the Jay!