Since I haven't seen any rare or particularly interesting birds lately, I thought I would pass along an interesting behavioral observation on two of our most most common species here on the Mendocino coast: The Douglas red squirrel and the Steller's jay.
I was sitting on my back porch the other morning drinking coffee and watching a young Steller's jay new to the backyard birdfeeder scene trying to figure out how he could get more sunflower seeds when out of the darkness of the tree a red squirrel leaps out grabs the jay with his front paws. The squirrel had the bird in what can only be described as a sort of bear-hug (squirrel hug?). The jay was completely immobilized as its wings were being tightly held against its body. The squirrel just held him in this position for what seemed like a long, long time, never trying to bite or injure the jay. The young jay was making a sound that will never be found in any bird book on Steller's jay vocalizations. It was merely a terrified screaming noise that I have never heard a bird make. The squirrel then released the bird who flew away with feathers mussed and crest askew.
A couple of days later I noted what I assume was the same jay in the same tree with the resident red squirrel vocalizing loudly. The jay then took one of the squirrels carefully cached pine cones in its beak and deliberately, and one imagines, with great pleasure, drop it onto the ground. It then proceded to take each pine cone in the cache, one by one and drop them on the ground causing the red squirrel to go into a paroxism of angry chattering that I don't think I have ever heard a red squirrel make. I know this is anthropomorphic, but I swear the shek, shek, shek sound that bird made as it flew away sounded a lot like laughter.
I think two conclusions can be made from these observational data:
1: Douglas red squirrels and Steller's jays don't get along and,
2: Significant mortality in juvinile Steller's jays may be attributed to Douglas red squirrels.