National Geographic : 1933 Jan
CROWS, MAGPIES, AND JAYS Photograph by George Shiras, ad "WHISKEY JACK" NEVER FAILS TO HEED THII MESS CALL The Canada jay has an appetite so omnivorous that he has been known to consume large quantities of soap. His nickname may have come from the Indian word "wiskedjack," or from another Indian term, "wiss-ka-chon," corrupted by white men to "Whiskey John" and then to "Whiskey Jack" (see page 76). central Florida. Jays were not very com mon there at that time. The settlers planted water oaks for shade, and as these and other deciduous trees developed, the character of the bird life began to change. Crested flycatchers, chuck-will's-widows, cardinals, and wrens, hitherto but little known in that immediate neighborhood, began to come about the houses. Inland towns to-day have bountiful acorn crops, and blue jays are abundant. Blue jays are very engaging birds. You may suspect them of taking the eggs from the robin or yellow warbler's nest which you have been watching; you may object to their cries and shouts, but the blue jay is the dashing, handsome rake of the village. In a vast evergreen forest in the moun tains of Montana I was awakened one morning by a sound that was entirely new to me. A guttural, grating, rattling note, difficult to describe, yet easy to remember, was issuing from some point near by. Cautiously raising the flap of my sleeping bag, I discovered the author of the sounds. On a low limb of a tree sat a stocky, gray bird at least a foot in length. His wings were glossy black with a dash of white. He was peering at his companion standing on the ground by the log where we had eaten our supper the evening be fore. This was my first acquaintance with the "big camp robber," or Clark's crow, and the meeting was just as I would have had it-a perfectly natural environment and a visit staged in a manner wholly characteristic of this little-known bird. High up on the slopes of Pikes Peak, a Clark's nutcracker dashed from a stunted conifer in pursuit of another. Straight out from the mountain they flew. Four hundred yards or more away, they turned to the misty valley far beneath and plunged downward, volplaning, banking, flying with flapping wings, but always descend ing until, perhaps 2,000 feet below, they were lost to my view. Diving flights from such dizzy heights meant nothing to them. In the wilderness the Clark's nutcracker is as adventurous as was the great explorer of the Northwest who first discovered it to science and whose name it bears.