Western scrub jays are not particularly friendly birds, but when they spot a fallen comrade, they hold screeching "funerals" for as long as a half-hour, a new study shows.
Researcher Teresa Iglesias, a University of California, Davis graduate student, set up feeding tables in backyards near the school to attract the territorial blue birds, which live in breeding pairs and are not very social. Iglesias videotaped their how the jays reacted when she placed a dead jay on the ground near the feeding tables, comparing these reactions with the birds’ behavior when they saw a stuffed jay, a stuffed horned owl and pieces of wood painted to look like jay feathers near the table.
When confronting a dead jay splayed out on the ground, the birds dashed to a tree and began a series of loud, screeching calls to attract other jays, which joined and added their voices to the choir. Iglesias found that these shrieking sessions could last from a few seconds to as long as 30 minutes.
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