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Devious Birds 


Thank you very much for the article ("Bright Birds," June 28) by Heidi Walters in the North Coast Journal. I found it informative and inspiring. I want to disagree however with one of the article's minor conclusions, that Steller's jays only "stumble upon" bird eggs. I feel certain that they do stumble on some. But they also conduct synchronized searches for them. ?Many times over many years I have seen a small flock of them after nests. Characteristically, a couple will distract the nesting victims with calls and proximity while another one or two or three will silently search through the canopy for the nest. I have also seen both single Steller's jays and scrub jays directly follow spotted towhees into places where the towhee may be nesting. They also watch the activities of juncos, apparently with an eye to discerning the nest location. I think not all Steller's forage by the same techniques, and perhaps this fact has misled you. For example, wasps have nested for many years under my eaves. But in the last two springs, one Steller's Jay has gone around under my eaves and attacked every nest, apparently eating the grubs. This is new behavior involving only one bird each year. It has been shown that songbirds have relatively large brains for their body size. I think this must increase the probabilistic aspect of their behavior. Consider for example the blue tits of England in 1920, and their learned behavior of stealing cream.

Robert Sutherland, Ettersburg

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