Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay
by Julie Zickefoose
A beautiful, tender and eye-opening book. Author and bird rehabilitator Julie Zickefoose tells how she raised a wild blue jay, named Jemimah. It was found as a young chick on the ground under a despoiled nest. Zickefoose had a lot of experience raising other young birds, but not any corvids before this. Lively, intelligent and very social, the jay demanded a lot from her and her family. The bird\’s care, feeding, habits, learning, socialization and eventual release are all detailed. Not without some difficulties- at one point the jay is ill and needs quick treatment (hard to manage as Jemimah was already flying free outdoors at that point, although still visiting the house regularly). Later on Jemimah breaks some feathers, seriously hindering her flying ability and Zickefoose wonders if she\’ll ever survive to her second year, so handicapped. Some investigation reveals that the feathers were probably weakened by an illness the jay had as a chick, and might even be the reason it was originally ousted from its nest. Against the odds Jemimah survives with a wild flock she\’s taken up with, and the author is overjoyed to see her again over a year later. In the time between, she tells of a few other jays that were rescued and rehabilitated (some successfully, some not), her methods for photographing birds that visit her yard, identifying markers she uses to tell jays apart, and what she learns by meticulously going back through hundreds of photographs- sometimes able to recognize a certain bird again, and piece together some data about its circumstances. During the time she raised Jemimah, the author also debunked some commonly held practices in caring for young blue jays. It\’s all fascinating, very heartwarming and makes me very keen to see a flash of blue among the trees again (jays visit my yard sometimes, but never stay long).
Borrowed from the public library.
Rating: 4/5 254 pages, 2019