A Blue Jay on Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day, a mother Blue Jay nominated me to foster mother her baby who had fallen out of the nest. I was outside watering plants when the mama Blue Jay caught my attention. She was flying from tree to tree and squawking at her baby who was hopping along the ground, not-at-all following the mom’s command to stay close to her.

That baby was going nowhere safe.

I hustled the dogs and cats into the house, promising treats. Then I rushed back outside and caught the baby Blue Jay. I know the drill: When you find a baby bird, put it in a hanging basket near the tree where it fell, so the parents can find it and take care of it.

I tried. But this baby was big enough to climb out of the hanging basket—and determined to do it, even though it wasn’t yet strong enough to fly. Even perching was a challenge. The first time he climbed out onto a branch, he leaned too far back and ended up hanging upside down. Clearly, this wasn’t going to work.

Red-tailed hawks circled overhead looking for a snack for their babies, so I brought the baby Blue Jay inside. While it sat in my office in a towel-lined laundry basket, I spent an hour configuring a coco-mat liner into a tall-sided nest the baby would have to work very hard to climb out of. I attached the tall-sided nest inside a hanging basket, put the baby in the nest, and hung it in a tree. I watched from the window for over an hour (meanwhile working on my laptop), but the parents didn’t come.

What did come was one of my cats. I ran outside and plucked the cat off the tree before it could reach the makeshift nest. Then I brought the baby bird back inside, sent Hans out to buy mealworms, and went outside with a shovel to look for earthworms—which the bird refused to eat. I did manage to get him to gulp down a few water-soaked mealworms. He spent the night in my office, and the next morning, I gave him some soaked cat-food kibble before taking him outside for another try at helping him find his parents.

I’m going into too much detail, and I apologize for any eye strain this may cause. But I want to stress how much time and emotional energy this whole enterprise consumed and how much angst it generated. (Because that makes the happy ending even more satisfying.) While Hans set an extension ladder against a likely tree and installed a metal plant-hanging hook twenty feet up, several Blue Jays flew overhead, zig-zagging across the sky and calling out to one another. It seemed like an organized search party was in progress.

I told the baby bird to make himself known. He perched on my finger, and I held him up high as he sang the song of his people. Two of the adult Blue Jays came close and landed in a nearby tree. I knew they’d noticed the baby. I put him back in the oversized nest basket I had manufactured, and Hans climbed up the ladder and hung the basket.

We stood back and watched the adult jays fly to the treetop and work their way down, hopping branch to branch until they reached the baby, who had (stupidly) scrambled up the side of the basket and climbed out onto a limb.

Meanwhile, all the other adult jays who’d been helping to search for the baby showed up. They took turns bringing him food for the next couple of hours. (I had gone inside but was watching through a window while working on my laptop.) The baby fell once, and I ran outside to save him. He was unharmed from his fall, and Hans put him back in the makeshift nest.

The community of jays who had helped at first went back to minding their business, and only the two parents remained. They sat on the branch directly above the nest basket, and apparently the baby was prepared at this point to listen to his elders and stay put.

For the next two days, I checked on the tree often, and as long as I saw the two parents sitting calmly on the branch above the baby’s nest, I knew everything was okay. I also kept an eye on the cats’ behavior. I knew that if they found a baby bird on the ground, they’d all be gathered around to watch.

On the third day, the baby must have learned to fly, because the parents stopped standing guard over the nest, and everyone in the Blue Jay community seemed happy and calm.  Life for them (and for us) had gone back to normal.

I must admit that I complained to myself a time or two about having to go to all that trouble to save a bird that was set on getting himself into trouble. But in the end, it was all worth it, and it was heartwarming to see the whole Blue Jay community helping one another. It seems that even for animals, it takes a village to raise a baby, and they’re willing to do it. That makes me happy.

5 Responses

  • Wow Babette thank you for taking the time to share your story. It is wonderful and yes happy endings always good. Admire your and Hans’ patience to give the baby blue jay a chance at life. Bless you both.

  • Yay! Glad for the happy ending! Glad you knew what to do to save and nurture and protect the baby jay.
    I am grateful for all the details you gave, which were so educational, if there is ever a time when this happens near me.

  • I love it! Thank you for sharing this, Babette. It warms my really-weary-from-the-last-three-years heart. I love to hear of others caring for animals and going out of their way to do so. Glad to know I’m not the only one who does these kinds of things and cares for animals.

    Of course, I know YOU do, so it’s never a surprise – but it’s still really nice to read about.
    We all need to hear and see more compassion and kindness. 😉

  • when I was a kid my grandfather used to recue any injured bird and my Mom raised a baby grackle – baby birds are so funny to watch eat

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