I was sitting on the deck reading a collection of short stories by Robin Black. I was also tossing a peanut or two on the deck nearby for my friends the Scrub Jays. I had just finished with the peanuts and was back to my reading when a Jay hopped onto the deck and then to the stool I was resting my feet on, and then on to my foot.
I stopped reading at the end of the sentence I was reading. He didn’t say anything, just tilted his head to one side as I, in slow motion, grabbed my iPhone and captured the moment. I then reached for a peanut, He walked up my leg and quickly took it from my hand. He cached it in a nearby flower bed and returned for another. I’m a sucker for the Jay and fed him countless peanuts until he left satisfied, or perhaps just tired of the game.
How did I train the Jay to perch on my foot? It required patience but was not particularly difficult. I started by throwing a few peanuts, unsalted in the shell, on the deck when I saw Jays in the backyard, and they came, and they took my offerings. This went on for a while and then one morning I saw a Jay on the deck holding a sign that read, “WHERE ARE THE PEANUTS”, I righted the wrong by quickly providing more peanuts. This happened most mornings, not the sign, I guess he figured I’d gotten the message, he simply looked at me through the window, an impatient look, and I knew what I had to do.
Later I would take a supply of peanuts with me when I went to the deck to read.
The Jays are a diverse group some were willing to come fairly close to get their prize, others are quite nervous about approaching the fellow sitting there, they are the older birds.
One day I started putting peanuts on the foot stool I put my feet on. A Jay smaller than the others perched on my foot looking for peanuts. It was this Jay or his double that returned today and perched for the picture, and later took peanuts from my hand.
I love the Scrub Jays, they’re smart, they’re beautiful, and they did a great job of training me to feed them peanuts from my hand.