[Tweeters] Scrub Jays or Corvid Wolves?

Rob Conway robin_birder at hotmail.com
Sun Aug 11 00:36:30 PDT 2013

Over the past two weeks a group of scrub jays, 6 or 7, they are hard to count, moved into my garden area and they are proving to be very effective predators against some surprise animals. Last Sunday I watching bird feeding activity from my quiet corner on the back deck - American and Lesser Goldfinches, Chestnut Backed Chickadees, Red and White breasted Nuthatches, Housefinches and new mobs of Bushtits - forming up into their large fall and winter groups . I was truly enjoying see how each bird picked through the seed or ate suet according to their own need or taste. About 15 bushtits mobbed the suet feeder at once and like a flash 2 scrubjays were on the birds out of nowhere (the roof I think) and each nabbed a bushtit. They flew off with the birds in their beaks and they dispatched and ate both in a large fir snag just 80 or so feet away. I'd never seen Scrub Jays attack other birds but these guys looked practiced.

Yesterday while digging blackberries from my back 1/2 acre I disturbed a pretty good sized garter snake that rushed across the open space I had just cleared. Whoosh out of the tree came a Scrub Jay - landing on the snake just hehind the head and then hammering the head with his bill. The snake struggled, but lasted only a couple of minutes before the jay took him up in mouth and flew him to a sturdy limb in a Big Leaf Maple. The bird did a very vigourous side to side whack of the snakes head against the branches and after just a couple of attempts to coil up or get away the snake lay dead and still in the Jays beak. The bird didn't try to swallow the snake whole but instead broke it up into 4-5 inch long pieces that it easily swallowed. Yuck.

Today I cleaned out a bed of Shasta Daiseys (about 5' by 25') on a steep slope. When I was done I sat down in the shade to admire my handywork when I saw a lot of rustling in the dry leaves and stems I had just exposed. I stayed still expecting to see a snake or alligator lizard or even a mouse pop out of the dry matter. To my surprise a mole popped out of the dry grass and started scampering down the slope toward a lot of bare territory that ends up on the street. The mole was trying to find loose ground to start burrowning under but before he could get his nose under 3 Scrub Jays flew right next to him with one actually landing on his back. The mole surprised me by growling and aggressively fighting back, but whacks, pulls, and pokes from the 3 birds were just too much and he started bleeding from the head, and it appeared some of his front toes had gone missing. The birds eviscerated the mole in just seconds and each took gruesome mouths full of meat, organs and bone.

Do I have a flock that has developed a highly sociallized skill that differentiates them from other Scrub Jays or is this just normal but uncommon behavior for these birds? I'd love to hear what others have seen,


Rob Conway
Camas, WA
45.58°N 122.44°W - elevation 310 ft.
robin_birder at hotmail.com

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