Bird Lady Blog

July 23, 2011

Blue is a Beautiful Color Indeed

Filed under: Great Blue Heron,Munds Park Birding,Steller's Jay,Uncategorized — Munds Park Birding @ 10:04 am

In the last post I wrote about the Western Bluebird, a bird we see often in Munds Park.  The males have gorgeous sky-blue heads and backs, and even the females have blue wings and tails.  I thought I would stick with the blue theme this issue.  I have a black and blue finger from  jamming it while cleaning, and we are doing some painting in our house, with a good portion of some of the rooms in different shades of blue, so blue seems to be the color to focus on.

One bird that is very popular with Munds Park residents, with many people commenting to me about it, is the Steller’s Jay, our own mountain
version of a “blue jay”.  It is large and dark, with a black and crested head, but the back and wings are a sparkling deep blue that shines almost iridescently in the sun.  Most of the time the Steller’s Jay is in the tall canopies of the trees, but it will regularly come to feeders and especially likes peanuts.  Its most noticeable feature is a large crest that gives it a “don’t mess with me” look.  This bird hangs around in camp grounds and picnic areas and will hop on the ground picking up leftover food or unattended picnic items.  Steller’s Jays are described as bold, inquisitive, intelligent, and noisy, and that is a pretty good description of most of the jay family.  My favorite jay in the Midwest and East is its cousin, the Blue Jay, which also has a crest but is colored a lighter blue with a lot of black and white mixed in.  A Steller’s Jay is a great bird for piquing your children’s or grandchildren’s interest in nature as it is colorful, large, and crested and it feeds on people food – peanuts.

I haven’t written until now about the Great Blue Heron.  This bird is one of the largest we have in Munds Park, and you can see it either hunting around the Pinewood Country Club Golf Course ponds and at Lake Odell or flying elegantly in the air with long, sweeping wing beats.  It is the largest and most widespread heron in the U.S., and you will find them at your local golf course and urban ponds or fishing lakes in the rest of Arizona.  They migrate all the way into Mexico and Central America.  The back, wings, and belly are a blue-ish gray, and they have a black plume extending from the eye to the back of the neck.  The feathers are shaggy-looking around its neck.  However, when it stand completely erect at four-and-a-half feet, the bird is very sleek, large, and imposing, especially with its long beak that looks very powerful and dangerous.  And it is indeed dangerous for the fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, shrimp, crabs, crayfish, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other insects it preys on.  If you are out and about and run into a hunting Great Blue Heron, be courteous. It is probably standing perfectly still as it awaits its prey to swim by and then bingo, stabs it with its powerful bill and swallows its catch down its long neck.  And, by the way, its eggs are blue as well.

Great Blue Herons, like many species, are affected by human development.  Human-caused noise, construction, and general lack of secluded habitat affect them.  They breed in colonies, and evidence suggests that colonies will get smaller, with only 40 to 50 breeding families as opposed
to over 100, when their habitat is negatively affected.  I am not aware of breeding colonies of Great Blue Herons in northern Arizona – something for me to research.


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