Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bird Profile: Blue Jay

Blue Jay
This majestic bird is loud and raucous, and you probably notice it most early in the morning as it calls loudly outside your window long before you want to open your eyes. While you may want to pull your pillow over your head and go back to sleep, I recommend taking a peek outside your room to observe this intelligent and stunningly beautiful creature. First of all, it is BLUE. Not just dull primary color blue---no, this bird is part metallic blue, part iridescent blue, part sutble-yet-eye-catching blue. It boasts black and white accents around its face, as well as beautiful black stripes on its wing and tail feathers (known as flight feathers). It also has a "mohawk", known as a crest in the bird world.

The Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, is in the Corvid family, which means it is related to Crows and Ravens--highly intelligent birds. Blue Jays have "complex social systems with tight family bonds", according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website ( You will often see them in groups flying between trees or following each other to their next feeding site. Blue Jays eat acorns and are helpful in dispersing oak trees due to their caching behavior (they bury thousands of acorns to save for later, but they don't come back for all of them so many of them germinate). They also eat insects as well as other seeds.

 Cool Facts about Blue Jays:
1. The pigment in their feathers is actually brown, but the miniscule barbs that keep the feathers hooked together (see photo) have modified cells on their surface that scatter the light instead of absorbing it, so the color we see is blue.

The feather structure of a Blue Jay feather up close. Feathers  are actually made up of many compound structures that "zip" together to form a flexible yet durable surface.

2. Blue Jays are long-lived. The oldest known Blue Jay in the wild lived to be at least 17 and a half years old. That's how old your little brother is! (Or could be).

3. Blue Jays use their crests to send messages about how they are feeling. When they are agitated or alert, their crest is raised high. If they are tending to their nest or associating with their mates and family, their crest is relaxed on their head.

For more information on Blue Jays, go to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website "All About Birds".

All information taken from

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bird Profile: Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren
I remember my first week at Warren Wilson as a transfer living in Dorland. I would look out my third-floor window into the trees and search endlessly for that loud loud bird I was hearing. It was so loud I felt like it must have been close to my window, practically sitting on my window sill. One day I finally located the bird in the trees. He was so small and nondescript, but he sure could project his song!

Click HERE to listen to the Carolina Wren song and calls (click on the Songs tab).

The Carolina Wren, Thryothorus ludovicianus, is a common resident here on campus. They chatter at each other in the shrubs near Sunderland, in the forest near the pedestrian bridge, and in the Devil's Walkingstick trees near the science buildings. They sing over your heads while you eat on Cowpie lawn in the spring! Carolina Wren is the South Carolina state bird, though they live in the entire eastern third of the US down into Mexico. They form monogamous pairs, meaning they mate for life!

How to Identify:
Carolina Wrens are about the size of a sparrow and are rusty brown in color, with a buffy/beige belly and whitish throat. They have a striking white "eyebrow" stripe (this is called the supercilium). If you look closely, you can see thin dark stripes on the feathers of the wings and tail. Their posture is also a great way to tell if it is a Carolina Wren. They often look puffy and round with their tail sticking straight up.

For more information on Carolina Wrens, like what they eat and how many eggs they lay per nest, go to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website "All About Birds".

All information from

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sunday Walk at Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) from
Join us this Sunday October 9th for a walk around Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary from 9 am to 12:30pm.

We will provide binoculars, transportation, and knowledge! Meet in front of Morse at 8:52am. We will leave promptly at 9am.

Please RSVP to so we can plan vehicles. Thanks!


Bird Crew