2 Blue Jay Babies Survive Mean Streets of the East Village

baby blue jay

Baby Jay looks out on new home

Two baby blue  jays survived growing up on a fire escape in the East Village. My neighbors and I caught the two fledgling babies and brought them to the relative safety of the block’s backyard this morning.  Only two survived out of a nest of five–despite the fascination of the community and many efforts to help them. But really two is pretty good for such a ridiculous nesting spot–twelve feet above nothing but hard sidewalk, a street and lots of nosey New Yorkers.

The couple whose fire escape the blue jays lived on wrote me last night, heartbroken, fearing all the babies had died. The nest was empty. One or two bodies were found on the sidewalk. One baby made it to the ground safely, only to be swooped up by New Yorkers trying to be helpful. Unfortunately, they just brought it over to the biggest park in the area, Tompkins Square, a half mile away. It’s totally normal for baby birds to be on the ground for a few days, learning and gaining strength to fly, but then they hang around their parents for months getting help, Cornell’s AllAboutBirds says. One of the most dangerous things in the world is a helpful New Yorker. Once we latch onto somebody’s problem, watch out.

I got a call from a neighbor this morning about a new blue jay situation: one baby bird down on the street. When I got out it was sitting on a bike and already had a crowd.  One had keys to the large, quiet and relatively safe backyard. I caught the bird. One of the jay parents–I’d like to think it was the angry father blue jay who spent much of the last month swooping at cat who sits behind a third floor window on the block–swooped down and kicked me on the head.

Since Manhattan doesn’t have alleys, backyards are dreamy oases, dark and green. On my block, they all connect, separated by flimsy fences, so this would be right behind the fire escape nest. The bird half-flew to some groundcover. While we were carrying it a guy said there was another baby jay in the senior center down the block. I had put up flyers telling people they could call me or put the bird in safety there. Much to may surprise, someone had followed my suggestion. The four of us went to find it.But, as long as we could get it to the backyard–the closest safe are to the nest–we’d try.  This one was a noisy baby, so easy to find. We released it in the backyard. For good measure I put out some more raw peanuts, hoping to lure the blue jay parents to the area. One came back while we were there. Cornell says the babies go up to 75 feet from the nest on the ground in the first few days. From a bird’s eye view, this is less than that. So, I hope they connect. And I hope I don’t end up on these clever birds’ enemies list.

See a video of the father jay swooping at a cat

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