I’m quite fond of the composition of this shot of a Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) as it reminds me of Japanese art. For this reason, I didn’t crop it further.
As you can see, the Jay is beautifully coloured and marked. It is undoubtedly the most exotic looking of the British corvids (with the potential exception of the rare scarlet-beaked Chough). The Corvidae family also includes the commonly seen crows, magpies, rooks, and jackdaws. Some people see the corvids as aggressive, scavengers, thieves, noisy, pests, and even as symbols of evil. They can certainly be some of these things, but I am a huge fan. Corvids are probably the most intelligent bird family in existence…
Sequential tool use
…One type of crow has even been examined as the only bird species known to exhibit sequential tool use (i.e. using a tool to obtain or shape another tool thus displaying forethought and planning going well beyond basic animal instincts). Just check out this video of a crow using a stick to get a longer stick and then again to get a longer stick still so that it can reach food – I can think of plenty of humans who would be flummoxed by that challenge! I may have written that in jest, but some believe that Corvids display intelligence beyond almost any other animal except humans.
Another example of their intelligence is that Corvids are also excellent mimics. The Jay may have a loud rasping call of its own but it can also accurately mimic a number of other bird species. It has even been known to attack raptors such as Tawny Owls whilst precisely mimicking their calls. Just imagine how freaky that would be for the Tawny Owl – having a colourful bird flying at it loudly repeating what it had just been saying in precise replication of its voice?! In this video, you can watch the Jay mimic an angry cat – brilliant!
If you want to read more about the Jay in symbolism and life then this blog post is excellent. But, suffice to say, Jays and the Corvids in general are amazing creatures that deserve our respect.
Since posting this blog, I have now found an even more incredible video of a crow displaying tool-use intelligence. Just watch what happens when this bird can’t quite get its stick to pick up the worm … it only goes and bends the stick into a hook!