How America’s most legendary bird painter did a centuries-old injustice to one of our most beautiful birds
Buster, my Blue Jay buddy, finally came out from behind his favorite rock, and man is he handsome! Fresh from feasting on suet, he looks very pleased with himself, fluffing out his debonair neck feathers. You have to love him!
Or maybe you dislike Blue Jays? Many bird lovers do. And I’ll admit to harboring an outright revulsion to Blue Jays for many years, stretching back to my childhood.
Why? Because my family had a book of John Jay Audubon prints…
…and I could never forget his amazing Blue Jay portrait, showing a gang of Jays eating the eggs from a songbird nest.
I can still close my eyes and see Audubon’s Blue Jays greedily sucking those pilfered eggs—the yellow yolk lazily dripping from one egg into an open beak below, as another Jay wears a punctured egg over his beak like a clown’s nose.
It’s the most beautifully vivid Audubon print I’ve ever seen and the story it tells is absolutely unforgettable. There’s just one problem. To put it gently:
Audubon’s story is 99% MYTH.
America’s most famous bird artist may once have seen a Blue Jay investigating an abandoned nest, and possibly even eating a broken egg. But it would have been a rare occurrence indeed. Because scientists recently found…
FACT: Only 1% of Blue Jay meals include eggs.
As documented on the Cornell University website, ornithologists examined the contents of 530 Blue Jay stomachs. 22% of what they found were insect parts and the remainder consisted almost entirely of acorns, nuts, fruits and grains. To quote the Cornell website:
Of 530 [Blue Jay] stomachs examined, traces of bird eggs and nestlings were found in only 6 stomachs, although a search was specially made for every possible trace of bird remains
So please feel free to love Buster as much as you adore any other songbird. Blue Jays are not habitual egg-eaters, athough they might occasionally be opportunistic scavengers.
I’ll admit they can make raucous calls. But how do you sound at the ballpark?
Buy prints if photo #1, featured above