Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Story of Ms. Gimpy and Mr. Peanut

Ms. Gimpy still slightly favoring her right leg. This photo captures her hopping on her left, using her right as a stabilizer.

I got to know two Blue Jay fledglings this summer, almost by accident. The two noisy youngsters began coming around to visit when I was in the garden.

One day, I dug into my cupboard and found a few stale almonds for them. Our friendship was sealed.

One of them always liked to see how much food he could get into his beak and still manage to fly off with it.

First he practiced on the almonds ... 

When he did the same thing with unshelled peanuts I was impressed, though I did laugh when he tried and failed to negotiate three--at once.

Nevertheless, his two-peanut take-offs were a garden delight--though very difficult to photograph!

And ... he's off!

Oops. Just got his tail that time.

So he became Mr. Peanut. The quieter one, who was always second in line for food, I assumed must be his sister.  They both still had a few downy feathers when we first met.

I was very worried when, on September 19, 2011, the female appeared for breakfast looking dishevelled and dangling her right leg. Her more aggressive sibling, perhaps fearing she might attract predators, chased her away from the food, and she spent the morning huddled in one of my shrubs--her feathers fluffed around her for comfort.

I kept my eye on her all morning from my kitchen window as she sat on one leg and leaned on branches to support her right side.

It was that day I began to call her Ms. Gimpy. Several friends, who are birders, told me her prospects were dim. I watched for her, and made sure to distract Mr. Peanut with his favorite food, so she could take a turn at meal time. In spite of her very apparent handicap, she kept appearing daily.

She would tuck her right leg under her and hop around the table on her left. Sometimes, her left leg got so tired she just eased herself down, with a sort of a sigh, and nibbled at the food from table level.

Ms. Gimpy, at rest, on two different days.

It has been a fascinating experience watching her heal. I've learned to listen for the quiet inter-family communication between the two birds. I've watched Mr. Peanut begin to take turns with her again at meals as she's grown stronger. This week, for the first time, she has been putting weight on her right leg. Yesterday, she even fooled me for a minute: I thought she might be her brother.

She still favors her right leg, but on Monday, she went from dining in the shade ....

... to a swoop right up to the top of my sunny roof, where she appeared to stand straight and true.

Jays, Crows, and Magpies are all corvidae and are among the most intelligent of birds. The bird book says corvidae have the ability to imitate the human voice. So I've been trying to teach Ms. Gimpy to say: "Hello Robin."

"What is that human blabbing about now?"

No luck so far. Perhaps she doesn't feel like talking. Or, perhaps she doesn't like the idea of speaking the name of that other colorful denizen of the garden.

Ms. Gimpy, three weeks into her recovery, watching the world go by.

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Don Meuler said...

Hi Robin! :o)

Good news! I hope she continues to thrive, and doesn't get too cocky.
If I try to put food out for the jays, I get a gang of from four to seven or more of them staking their claim(s). Mostly by yelling.

Robin Chapman said...

This is your punishment for feeding all those squirrels!

Lena said...

That is great that she is healing. I've been enjoying following the story about Ms. Gimpy.

Robin Chapman said...

I wish you had been here Lena to see it all. She still raises her right leg in a different way than the other bird. I wonder if she broke her hip? Anyway, she's almost 100%, but I still haven't taught her to talk ...