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A noisy and colourful wonder of the bird world

PUBLISHED: 08:23 21 February 2018

Jay: Pam Taylor enjoyed a close-up view of a pair of jays in her garden.

Jay: Pam Taylor enjoyed a close-up view of a pair of jays in her garden.

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Nature: Pam Taylor enjoys the chance for a close-up view of the spectacular jay.

I’ve never had the opportunity to study a jay and its behaviour up close before, but this morning that all changed. As I walked into the kitchen I saw two jays on the grass verge beneath an oak tree on the opposite side of the driveway. They didn’t see me, so I was able to study everything about them for about ten minutes. I’ve seen jays at a distance of course, but around here they tend to stick to the woods and call noisily from the branches.

The two just outside my kitchen were obviously hunting for food amongst the fallen leaves and twigs. As they hopped around they tilted their heads so that first one eye and then the other was facing downwards. This way they seemed to cover every possible piece of ground before hopping on to the next patch. From time to time one or other would find an edible morsel to consume.

The jays were so close I could really appreciate their wonderful plumage. Predominantly pinky-grey on both the back and chest, there are a remarkable number of other colours present too. The black and azure striped feathers on the edge of the folded wings were particularly conspicuous and I could see every detail from my vantage point. These feathers are actually the wing coverts and beneath them the primary and secondary feathers are mainly black with white markings.

The head is also black and white. The birds have a large black moustache on each side of the face, with a white throat between. The area around the eyes is also pale, but the cheeks are the same pinky-grey as the main body. The top of the head is white with black streaks, but all white just above the eyes so the birds appear to have large white eyebrows. One feature I hadn’t really appreciated before was the crest. Although formed by the pinky-grey feathers on the nape, as well as the streaked feathers above, on my jays it just looked like a shaggy mane.

As the jays finally departed, one clung briefly to the trunk of the oak tree, reminding me of the green woodpecker I had seen there the day before.

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