A pair of scrub jays has been visiting our patio, and I've been obliging them with peanuts. As time passed they've become more used to me and now land on the table near me to retrieve their peanuts. Often they'll sit a few feet away and sing a whisper song. I love it when they do that.
At first I thought it was a purely economic relationship - they sing, I reward them with peanuts. Now, however, one of them will sit on the back of a chair in front of the window and screech at me until I come outside. Then he sings, and after grabs a peanut or two off the table. Our relationship is more complex than I first thought.
Taking advantage of this I worked for a few days to get them to eat out of my hand, which they did, begrudgingly. I hated to stress them and did not necessarily want them trusting other humans, so have since then kept my distance.
Six days ago, on Sunday, June 29, the female appeared on the steps of our patio dragging a wing. She looked traumatized. I could not tell if her wing was broken, and since then have surmised that she was bitten. There was a little bloody patch on her shoulder.
I crushed some peanuts for her, which she took, and then scampered off.
The next day she looked worse, would open her beak, but omit no sound. I tried to catch her but though she let me come within a foot of her, I could not catch her, and did not want to further stress her. I saw her try to drink out of a bamboo stump, so walked around the property making sure there were little oases of fresh water she could take in different places and by different means.
She did not seem happy to eat the pre-crushed peanuts, so now I just bruise the shells and give them to her whole.
That second day she hopped around the yard, it seemed, checking out her new ground level domain - looking for places to hide peanuts and perhaps, herself. She favored the lower branches of a large rosemary bush, the sagging leaves of a bird of paradise, and a huge thorn laden palm.
I looked online and found that if I could catch her, a wild bird rescue authority, or vet, might euthanize her. Another site wrote about a scrub jay with a broken wing that lives a happy life on the ground. I decided it wasn't worth the risk, and if my jay was going to die, she should die in the yard she loves, on her own terms. Besides, I don't think I could catch her if I tried.
Today is the sixth day since her injury. About 6:30am she started screeching for me. I found her under the bird of paradise and threw her some whole peanuts. She was very animated and quickly broke one open and ate her breakfast. If I walked away she squawked and I returned. At the very least my presence keeps the squirrels away and she can eat her breakfast without looking over her shoulder.
She now hops to the highest branches of the nearby trees and seems to have a routine. Other jays visit her, but at this point I think mostly to steal her peanuts.
I don't suppose I'll know if something happens to her and she dies, or even if she eventually begins to fly. I expect one day she won't be able to fly, and then the next day she will. Maybe she'll find a way to identify herself to me. Maybe not. I'm happy to be a part of her life for the time being.
She reminds me of the D.H. Lawrence poem, popularized in Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane and Denzel Washington's The Debaters:
I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
Without ever having felt sorry for itself.