Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16: Not a Broad-Wing

This morning as I was leaving for work, I heard a broad-winged hawk calling. It's a distinctive call, a piercing, high-pitched whistle. (You can hear it here, though if you don't click away from the web page, the song repeats indefinitely. If you have dogs near, it will probably drive them--and you--crazy.) It called repeatedly (somewhat like the link I just posted) but rather faintly for a hawk that also sounded like it was in my back yard. I looked up and didn't see anything soaring overhead. They've been migrating through in high numbers this week, according to the Bradbury Mountain hawk watch, and I was looking forward to seeing my first one of the year. Often in summers past I've heard the call and stepped out into the yard to see a broad-wing or two circling in the sky above Mount Battie. I know of at least one pair that has nested in the area. But the sky was empty today as far as I could see. Then I realized: I was being duped by a blue jay.

And not for the first time. I've heard blue jays imitate broad-winged hawks, red-tailed hawks, and ospreys. I've also recently heard a blue jay respond to the "beep-beep" of my car door opener, both in my own driveway and elsewhere, with a perfect-pitch imitation. It wasn't just a fluke either; it beeped back in the same way each time I opened the doors. I'm not sure what the evolutionary advantage is to being such a successful mimic, but given that the blue jay's specialty seems to be raptors, perhaps it's to mess with other birds, to scare them off their eggs or otherwise distract them for some nefarious purpose of its own. Or perhaps it just enjoys playing with sounds. Jays are generally very verbal birds, and tricky. This one certainly played on my expectations this morning, as if it knew just what I was hoping to see and decided to taunt me.

No broad-wing, just jays--
spring's teasing reminder of
what's not yet returned.

No comments:

Post a Comment