A Black-Billed Magpie and A Mountain Jay

If you go to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, besides the elk, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep, you’ll see a lot of smaller creatures. Two birds caught my eye on our visit to the park last Friday. The first was a Black Billed Magpie.

I love the contrast between his ebony black feathers and his snowy white tummy feathers. A few facts:

  • Pairs mate for life.
  • They make food caches in the ground by digging a small hole with their beaks and depositing excess food. They come back a few days later to dig it out and eat it.
  • In the early 1800s on their trip west, Lewis and Clark reported that the bird would often enter their tents or steal their food from their hands.
  • They were considered a pest in the early 1900s, and were trapped and killed by the thousands.
  • Their are omnivorous, eating anything from seeds to carrion.
  • During the breeding season, the female does all the egg sitting, while the male brings food to her.

We also saw a mountain jay.

A few facts about the mountain jay:

  • They are closely related to the Blue Jay
  • They live over most of the western United States
  • Their diet ranges from seeds and berries, to rodents and lizards
  • The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs, and does all the egg sitting.
  • Besides its regular call of “waah waah” , it also imitates the call of a hawk to scare other birds from feeding areas.

He hung around us for quite a while, probably hoping for a handout. But I prefer to think that he enjoyed having his picture taken.

“This is my best side.”

“No, wait! This is my best side.”

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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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25 Responses

  1. Doe of Mi. says:

    I love these guys, they are so cute and so pretty at the same
    time. Have never seen them except in photos or books but, I do feed peanuts to the bluejays here and they sure have gotten to know me. I open the door and call “Blue” and they come for the peanuts. Usually they have one stationed in the apple tree watching for me then he calls the rest of them. I always say thats my daily intertainment!!! LOL Your photos are beautiful.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Doe,
      We don’t have many blue jays here, not enough trees I suppose. But we have goldfinches, and a lot of meadowlarks. That is really neat how your blue jays come when you call!

  2. Teresa says:

    I love that mountain jay–very beautiful! Glad he was happy to pose for you.

  3. Maegan says:

    I love Steller’s Jays. Them and the Clark’s Nuthatch (called Camp Robbers by a lot of people) are two birds I usually always see in RMNP.

  4. Michele says:

    Stunning photographs!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Cool birds! Love both a lot. Nice shots 😀

  6. Melanie says:

    I actually saw a magpie here in Kansas a few years ago. .they are SO striking and beautiful. I have never seen a mountain jay and they are just gorgeous!! One interesting thing that I learned about regular jays is that there is no blue pigment in their feathers. .it looks blue as the light hits it. Loved your photos.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Melanie,
      I had heard that about the color of jays not being a color at all but the way the light reflects off their feathers. Isn’t that amazing?

  7. GinMT says:

    Hi, Suzanne!

    I have had Stellar (mountain) Jays feeding on my deck for weeks now. They are truly beautiful birds. My yellow-collared macaw loves to watch them.

    Great photos!


  8. Julie says:

    I love the blue color, we don’t have that color in the east. Well, I’m not a birder so please feel free to correct me 😉

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Julie,
      There are blue jays in Delaware, but if you aren’t near a wooded area, you probably won’t see them. They like to be near a lot of trees.

  9. Elaine Snively says:

    Beautiful Pictures! Your Mountain Jay’s official bird name is Stellar’s Jay, named after the person who first discovered this species.

  10. Wow – those birds are gorgeous! Makes me realize that we need some more diverse birds in my area. Pigeons don’t count. 🙂

  11. Sally Bishop says:

    Why is it when we learn they “mate for life” they seem more special. It touches me to know that.

  12. oh my gosh, those birds are so cute! I love how the black billed magpie has a round little body…and how his tail is really long..just makes him look so cute! Also, the mountain jay is beautiful. I love the picture of his backside. Also, I love how he is all puffed up sitting in that tree!

  13. Maegan says:

    Yes! The Clark’s Nuthatch, also called the Clark’s Nutcracker was named after William Clark.

    They’re also really fond of potato chips, but you’re not supposed to feed them any more.

  14. Beautifully captured. That jay is stunning!

  15. Bob says:

    Best places to see these is in the national parks, where they have become accustomed to humans. In the wild, they are much harder to photograpy.

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