jay defined in 1930 yearjay - Jay;
jay - Crest greyish white streaked with black; a black moustache from the corners of the beak; general plumage reddish grey, darker above; primaries dingy black; secondaries velvet-black and pure white; inner tertials rich chestnut; winglet and greater coverts barred with black, white, and bright blue; upper and under-tail- coverts pure white; iris bright blue; beak black; feet dark brown. Length, thirteen and a half inches.
The jay is nearly equal to the daw in size, and has a variegated and beautiful plumage, and when seen flying across an open sunlit space is nearly as conspicuous as a magpie. But among the dense foliage of the woods and thickets he inhabits it is as difficult to see a jay as a wood-wren; and it is doubtless owing to this fact, and to his extreme wariness and cunning, that he still survives in many parts of England where the magpie has now been extirpated, although both species are pursued by gamekeepers with the same stupid and deadly animosity. In Scotland he is said to be decreasing more rapidly than in England, probably because the Scotch are more thorough than the Southrons, especially in the process of stamping out: in Ireland it is found only in the southern half of the island, where it is somewhat scarce.
The most striking characteristic of the jay is its tireless energy, and a liveliness of disposition and alertness almost without a parallel among British birds; even the restless, prying, chattering magpie seems a quiet creature beside it; and as to the other corvine birds, they are by comparison a sedate family. Like the magpie, he is an excitable and vociferous bird, and has a curious and varied language. When disturbed in his woodland haunts he utters a scream that startles the hearer, so loud and harsh and piercing is it. Richard Jefferies well describes it as being like the sound made in tearing a piece of calico. He also has a lower, monotonous, rasping note, which he will continue uttering for half an hour at a time when his curiosity or suspicion has been excited. In the love season he utters a variety of sounds by way of song, and as they resemble the notes of the starling, sparrow, and other birds, he ia supposed to be a mocker. In captivity he can be taught to speak a few words; but it is possible that the various sounds composing his vocal performance in the woods are his own.
In spring he becomes somewhat social, and unites in noisy parties; at other times he is solitary, or lives with his mate.
Owing to an excessively wary and suspicious habit, engendered by much persecution, it is difficult to observe him narrowly for any length of time. In the woods and plantations, few and far between, where jays are not persecuted, and do not associate the human figure with a sudden shower of murderous pellets, he will allow a nearer approach, and it is then a rare pleasure to study him on his perch. He does not, as a rule, rest long in one place, and when perched is of so active and excitable a temper that he cannot keep still for three seconds at a stretch. The wings and tail are raised, and depressed, and flirted, the crest alternately lowered and elevated, the head turned from side to side, as the wild, bright eyes glance in this or that direction. If he should by chance place himself where a stray sunbeam falls through the foliage on him, lighting up his fine reddish brown plumage, variegated with black and white and beautiful blue, he shows as one of the handsomest birds that inhabit the woodlands.
The jay makes his nest in a bush or sapling at no great height from the ground; the lower branch of a large tree is sometimes made choice of, where the nest is well concealed by the close foliage; a thick holly or other evergreen is also a favourite site. The nest is built of sticks and twigs, sometimes mixed with mud, and the cup-shaped cavity is lined with fine roots. Four to seven eggs are laid, pale greyish green in ground-colour, thickly freckled, and spotted all over with pale olive-brown. The young birds follow their parents for some weeks after leaving the nest.
The jay is omnivorous, but in summer feeds mainly on slugs, worms, grubs, and insects of all kinds; in this season he devours berries and fruit - plums, cherries, also peas and currants; and in autumn, nuts, beech-mast, and acorns. He also plunders the smaller birds of their eggs and young, and is said to carry off pheasant and partridge chicks. He is a keen mouser, and after killing a mouse with two or three sharp blows on the head, strips the skin off before devouring it. Like the nuthatch and some other species, he has the habit of concealing the food he does not want to eat at once.
near jay in Knolik
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