National Geographic : 1933 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by Dr. A . A . Allen ONE OF AMERICA'S BEST-KNOWN BIRDS TAKES TIHE STUMP The handsome and active northern blue jay likes to hear his own voice, and is seldom so well pleased as when making a hair-raising din and a lot of fuss and excitement about nothing. From a safe thicket of vines, he makes so bold as to hurl nasty epithets at hawks, but in the open keeps discreetly out of their way (see page 68). useless short flights, shift their positions on the limbs, or move from one perch or tree to another, all the time keeping up a most animated series of calls pitched in various keys. Some observers claim that crows talk. It certainly is true that their various notes are understood by their fellows, who at once react as the emergency requires. These so-called "crow conventions" are most amusing and would probably be ex tremely interesting if we could know what they were all about. Some observers claim that they hold trials over the conduct of some of their members. There is little evi dence, however, that anything of this kind takes place. The nearest opportunity I ever had of being a witness to any of their activi ties suggesting condemnation proceedings against one of their kind occurred one win ter evening while I was watching scattered flocks of hundreds of crows coming to their roost. Suddenly I became conscious of an un usual commotion among a group of eight. One evidently was in great disfavor with the others, for with angry and excited cawings they were striking at him most vigorously. The strength of the perse cuted bird was all but spent when I first sighted him, and when, a moment later, the fleeing one sustained a particularly vicious onslaught, he began to fall. He did not descend gradually, like a bird in jured on the wing, but plunged downward like a falling rock for 1oo feet or more, into the top of a large pine tree and, bound ing from limb to limb, struck the ground only a few yards from me. Upon picking him up I found him to be dead. THE AMERICAN MAGPIE In the western part of our country is found the black-billed magpie, very closely related to the magpies of Europe and Asia. In some of the States it is a numerous species, and because of its large size, strik ing contrasts of plumage, and extremely vociferous habits, it is one of the outstand ing birds which cannot readily be over looked, even by the most casual observer.