HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Topics » Science » Science (Group) » The jay, midwife of the f...
Introducing Discussionist: A new forum by the creators of DU

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 05:27 PM

The jay, midwife of the forest

The jay, midwife of the forest

Blackwater Carr, Norfolk: Every autumn the average jay plants 5,000 acorns to retrieve as food in the winter

Mark Cocker
The Guardian, Sunday 11 November 2012 16.00 EST

Just after I planted the onions in our allotment I started to find new excavations all along my neat rows. Sifting through the soil, I came across a secondary sowing of acorns. Almost daily for the past month I've seen the culprits, passing repeatedly across the skies with that strangely faltering flight pattern. They belong to the species WH Hudson called the "British bird of paradise", the European jay.

It is strange that western society has such a downer on corvids, to which family jays belong, because they are truly the birds with the deepest work ethic. Every autumn the average jay plants 5,000 acorns to retrieve as food in the winter. I'm a direct beneficiary of this avian providence because I have a single magnificent oak on my marsh. About a century ago an acorn somehow made its way from the nearest parent tree, hundreds of metres across the intervening ground, and came to rest in the dark peat of Blackwater Carr. I can easily imagine who was the delivering "midwife".

The European jays are impressive for their labours, but what about their nutcracking cousins spread across Eurasia? Each is thought to cache 100,000 seeds, but retrieves only about a quarter of these in the subsequent months. In North America the scrub, pinyon and Steller's jays are all avid tree-farmers and often specialise in favoured species. Even the blue jay, whose slaughter Atticus Finch approved in To Kill a Mockingbird, would be approved in most US pulpits, if only the minsters knew what an honest, industrious bird it really is. One blue jay was recorded to plant 100,000 beech nuts in one month. Perhaps the best way to rehabilitate the crow family is to promote a vision of these wonderful birds at a hemispheric level. They are the great keepers of the northern forests and are busy now husbanding that vast carbon-rich landscape in its millennial journey north as climate change begins to bite.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/11/jay-midwife-of-the-forest

2 replies, 663 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 2 replies Author Time Post
Reply The jay, midwife of the forest (Original post)
Judi Lynn Nov 2012 OP
mopinko Nov 2012 #1
Warpy Nov 2012 #2

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 09:41 PM

1. i love all the corvids.

was in cali and had the company of the local ravens in great numbers. quite a pleasure.
had stellar mooching every time we ate on the veranda. very pretty.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Sun Nov 11, 2012, 10:44 PM

2. Well, they likely weren't sowing the acorns as much as dropping them

on the way to dining on them. Then again, bird brains are proving to be very nice brains, so I could be wrong.

In any case, their blue US cousins are nasty little things in nesting season, dive bombing animals and small children alike if they are within eyesight of a nest.

Crows, on the other hand, fascinate me. They are remarkably intelligent birds and share my fascination with glitz. Whenever I put some unspinnable fiber out that has glitz in it for nesting birds, the crows are first on the scene.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread