Robbers and gendarme: the jay has many faces
Did you know that the jay is a brilliant voice imitator and plays an important role in the reforestation of our forests? This and more you can find out in our short portrait.
Perhaps the situation is familiar to some of you: You are walking through the forest, relaxed and without suspecting anything bad, and suddenly a wild screeching sounds, which goes through your marrow and bone. The originator of the shrill alarm signal is most probably the jay, which some bird lovers refer to as the “policeman of the forest” for this reason. Whether this title is really appropriate will be clarified later. The fact is, however, that almost nothing escapes the jaybird’s keen senses and that it has been able to protect countless forest animals from their natural enemies or stalking hunters from its safe hiding place in the treetops.
The jays belong to the genus of raven birds. Unlike its relatives, the raven crows, jackdaws and swedes, it does not have black plumage. A jay can be recognised by its slightly pink shimmering brown plumage, the blue-black accents on its flights and its black and white forehead. It grows to about 35 centimetres and can reach an age of up to 17 years. The bird is at home mainly in the forests and parks of Europe, but it can also be found in Russia, North Africa and parts of Asia.
The jayis considered the intelligence beast within the bird world. This is demonstrated, among other things, by his ability to imitate bird calls almost perfectly. Even experts sometimes cannot distinguish his imitations from the original. Imitating the call of a buzzard or a grey heron is one of the easiest exercises of the jaybird. The employees of a bird park in Hamburg found out that the sounds of their radios could also be imitated deceptively realistically by the bird – which caused some confusion for a short time.
The name jay refers to the bird’s favourite food: the acorn. He can transport up to ten of these in his throat sac. Berries, nuts as well as insects, worms and snails are also on the bird’s menu. But that’s not all, because the jay also likes to attack the nests of other birds in summer and regularly eats their eggs and young. Does such predatory behaviour fit in with a “policeman of the forest”?
Unpaid forest worker
Das Senden von Warnrufen, mit denen er andere Tiere schützt, ist nicht das einzige Verhalten des Eichelhäher, das sich positiv auf seine Umwelt auswirkt. He is also actively involved in the reforestation of the forests! In autumn, the clever animal usually sets up several underground hiding places with acorns, chestnuts and hazelnuts so that it does not have to go hungry during the cold season. Some of the supplies turn out later, and thanks to the jay, many new trees grow every year. For this reason we find the widespread nickname “gardener of the forest” much more appropriate for the small feathered Forsthelfer.
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