The Urban Scrub-Jay 

Have humans invaded the Scrub-Jays domain? Or, is it the other way around.

A story about my little friend, Scrubbie.

I first met Scrubbie a little over 5 years ago, right after I retired. During my first year of retirement, I spent almost every afternoon sitting in our upper patio, reading. Well, reading,  thinking and decompressing.  I mention decompressing because my ever-increasing work load at Cal Poly had finally worn me down. I retired a year early and it wasn't soon enough. My new little friend has been a big help during my recovery process, plus has reacquainted me with nature; something that has been in my backyard all along. Now, at last, I can see it, enjoy it and be close to it.

I usually bring along a bag of peanuts (lightly salted) and a glass of my favorite Chardonnay. I started tossing peanuts to Scrubbie early on. He'd eat a few on the spot, then stash the rest, most in nearby potted plants.  It was quite entertaining. I read somewhere that Scrub-Jays can remember 200 stashes. I'm sure this is better than I could do.

Later, I learned that he goes nuts (no pun intended) over Cheddar cheese. Mild, medium, sharp. He flips. Over time, Scrubbie would nudge in closer until he would sit comfortably about 12 inches from me, usually on the arm rest or back rail of my small patio bench. Then one day as I was reading, he swooped in and landed on my left knee. As we chatted "bird talk," I slowly reached for the bag of peanuts as he eagerly watched. I poured a few peanuts into my left hand, then slowly extended my arm. With little hesitation, he ate out of my hand.

Update: August, 2017

Sometime during the spring, Scrubbie found a mate. I was delighted to see that they decided to build a nest in the upper part of our Bougainvillea bush, just outside the French doors of our second-floor master bedroom. 

The two very busy birds were pretty cagey in the nest building duties.  They never flew directly to the nest. Both birds would first land on the nearby stair railing and then look around.  Once satisfied they weren't being watched by other birds or predators, they would fly through a small opening in the leaves.  I thought that was pretty clever.

I made it a point to not get close to their nest, including avoiding the stairs. I didn't want to risk scaring them away.  On the other hand, I was very much looking forward to seeing their offspring leave the nest.  Well, I never did see any test flights or little birds fluttering around, so I figured they either flew off undetected, or perhaps didn't survive.

Well, about a month ago I spotted Scrubbie and his family in a nearby tree - all 4 of them. The 2 little ones appeared to be full grown, yet were sticking close to Mr. and Mrs. Scrubbie. When Scrubbie got anywhere near close to the kids, they would automatically open their beaks and flutter their wings, obviously still expecting to be fed.  I saw Scrubbie give them a bug many times, but he refused to share the peanuts I gave him.  Instead, he seemed to give his offspring lessons on how to properly bury a peanut. I watch Scrubbie Jr. almost every afternoon, struggling to properly bury a peanut. I get a big kick out of this. Scrubbie Jr. really likes Cheddar cheese, too. 

Scrubbie, 5/13/2017:

David Stafford

Happily retired.