Posts Tagged ‘blue jays’

Avian Pox

The first time you see a bird ravaged by avian pox, it’s a bit disconcerting.  Accustomed to seeing pretty, fluffy-feathered birds at your feeders and birdbaths, one that looks more like a vulture than a songbird easily stands out from the rest.

Over the years I’ve frequently caught a  glimpse of blue jays afflicted with avian pox, but until this year, never managed to be quick enough to capture a photo.  They do tend to keep a low profile and seem more reticent than healthy birds.  The one at left was by itself, which is odd for blue jays, as they usually make the feeder rounds in pairs or small flocks.

Afflicted birds have no feathers on their heads.  Some may have nodules around their beaks, eyes and feet.  These may interfere with sight, breathing and eating.  Not only do these poor birds look miserable, they probably feel that way too.

A healthy blue jay visiting the same birdbath.

Avian pox can be transmitted from one bird to another directly or indirectly wherever birds share surfaces, such as birdbaths, feeders and tree branches.  Mosquitoes are also known to play a role in the transmission.  Once a bird survives a bout of avian pox, it acquires immunity for life and is no longer a carrier.

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The past few days have been hot, hot, hot!  We could learn a thing or two from the wild birds.  They know how to keep their cool in hot weather.  They hydrate at the local watering hole …

Take the kids swimming…

And even risk looking silly by taking a refreshing plunge themselves.

If there isn’t a pool or a shore nearby, other options are always available.  This young male pheasant was photographed moments after enjoying a quick dust bath in the ashes of an old fire pit.  Apparently such baths can be quite cooling.  Who knew!  I was wondering what those little depressions in the dust were.  Birds hunker down in them before they fluff dust into their feathers.

Doesn’t he look cool and relaxed despite the fact that there was a cat on the prowl nearby?  A cat, I might add, that I’ve already caught twice having a dip in the bird bath.   I guess we’re all desperate to keep cool these days.  But I don’t think I’m desperate enough to have a dust bath.  Not yet at least.

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Young Blue Jay

It’s not easy to get near a Blue Jay.  Though they’re common visitors to bird baths and feeders, unlike Robins and Chickadees, they’re reluctant to let humans get too close.  Perhaps it’s because they’re fairly slow flyers compared to other birds their size and need more lead time to flee from predators.   However, this week we had the unique opportunity to see a young Blue Jay up close.  It had flown into the front window and lay on the grass recovering for a few minutes before flying off to the woods.  Its plumage was spectacular.

Blue Jay Tail Feathers

Blue Jay Wing Feathers


Blue Jays are strikingly beautiful birds to see at any distance, but up close, their feathers are remarkably awesome.  Their tail and wing feathers are the bluest blue. 

Blue Jay Back Feathers

There are four sub-types of Blue Jay in North America, but the ones we see in Nova Scotia are among the brightest in color. 

A Blue Jay’s feathers appear blue due to light refraction.  This process depends exclusively on the integrity of the feather’s structure.  If a feather is crushed, it cannot refract light and consequently will lose its blueness.  A dull grey feather is the result. 

It wasn’t long before this little creature was on its way.  Though we feared it may have broken a wing, it had no problem flying off on its own to the safety of the woods.

For more information on Blue Jays, see  last year’s post on Blue Jay Feathers

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