Homeless in Vancouver: A Steller’s jay is something to crow about

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      Everyday in the Fairview neighbourhood I see several kinds of birds: crows, seagulls, pigeons, and chickadees to name the most common, but I have never seen a Steller’s jay until today.

      That’s kind of a shame. From the tips of its electric blue wings to the top of its charcoal crested head, the Steller’s jay is an eye-catching bird. It’s also British Columbia’s provincial bird.

      Our official bird isn’t a raven lunatic?

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The Steller’s jay is as common in most parts of British Columbia as it’s uncommon in Fairview. It doesn’t even normally migrate south in the winter time—there’s always somewhere to go in B.C. to get away from the snow and the cold.

      The Steller’s jay I saw today may be a new resident of Fairview—a Dumpster diver tells me a family of the brightly coloured jays has lately taken up residence in the vicinity of 15th Avenue and Fir Street, which is only about five blocks southwest of where I saw my bird.

      And no, I didn’t just spraypaint a crow!

      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      I’m a little disappointed to learn that Steller’s jays are members of the crow family or corvids.

      All corvids, whether crows, jays, magpies, or whatever, are annoying for the simple fact that they are all birds on the make and for the other fact that, on their best day, they can outsmart people.

      I was hoping Steller’s jays at least had songs to match their plumage but, as corvids, not one of them can sing worth a damn. All they can do is crow.

      The typical call of a male Steller’s jay is described as a high-pitched “gleep”, while the female is said to go in for more of a “rattling call”.

      Living up to the corvid reputation for trickery, they are also known for their ability to mimic a wide range of sounds—copying other birds, animals, and also “non-animals”.

      Not exactly the bluebirds of happiness, still…

      So Steller’s jays definitely don’t sing for their supper. Like all corvids, they’re more likely to nick it or acquire it through craft and cunning.

      The only thing that really seems to distinguish them from crows is the natural equivalent of some blue spraypaint and a dab of hair gel.

      But I’d still rather look at a blue and black Steller’s jay than a dull old crow.

      But that spraypaint and hair gel line just gave me an idea…hmm. 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer.


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      Martin Dunphy

      Jul 23, 2014 at 12:56pm

      And they are also cunning ambush carnivores. In Telegraph Cove a few years ago, I watched as two of them staked out a porch bird feeder frequented by small birds.
      When a sparrow, I believe, dropped to the floor to pick up some fallen seeds, they swooped on it immediately, as it was surrounded on four sides by porch walls and a back door.
      It was efficiently dispatched and rendered into pieces, which were then flown to the branches of a nearby pine tree and consumed.
      Then they came back and waited again.


      Jul 29, 2014 at 9:55am

      are the avian equivalent of people which is probably why we are wary of them so much.