A CATERWAULING JAY
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.]
Sm,—In your issue of July 9th, under the title " Some Excite- ments of a Bird-watcher," Mr. E. W. Hendy writes : " Montagu speaks of the jay imitating the buzzard's song,' and Bewick was once led to suspect the village carpenter of Sabbath-breaking—the bird mimicked so well the rasping sound of a saw." The following reminiscence may interest Mr. Hendy and other of your readers.
Sixty years ago, as a child, I lived in a suburb of Bristol; and at one time our menage included a jay, who generally, occupied a large well-protected cage, hung on a garden wall, a few feet from the house. We also kept a cat. She had acquaintances. Their forgatherings were sometimes musical, and the music fascinated the jay. He studied it, mastered it, and in a few months there was not a phrase in all their cacophonous minstrelsy—amorous, anguished, hostile, pro- fane—which he could not reproduce with marvellous exactitude. Mercifully the performance was usually given in subdued tones. Most amusing to me was his habit of crooning himself to sleep by rehearsing the contents of his repertoire in diminuendo ; the only instance I have ever known in which caterwauling proved conducive to slumber.