Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

What Are Birds Saying with Their Crests?

We can learn a lot from some birds’ special head feathers
© Hal Trachtenberg View Large

A bird’s crest is made up of a slender array of feathers on top of its head. These feathers are a bit longer and can be spiked up or slicked back, depending on what the bird is trying to communicate. Even birds without crests, like crows or sparrows, sometimes puff up their short crown feathers.

This show is made possible by Jim and Birte Falconer of Seattle, the Bobolink Foundation, Idie Ulsh, and the Horizons Foundation.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Jays and Crests

Written by Bob Sundstrom

[Blue Jay call, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/120042551 0.06-.10]

This is BirdNote.

A rakish, eye-catching crest really sets some birds apart. Picture the Blue Jays of the East…

[Blue Jay call, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/120042551 0.06-.10]

— or Steller’s Jays of the West:

[https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/125141401  0.04-.06]

A jay’s crest is made up of a slender array of feathers on top of its head. These feathers are a bit longer and can be spiked up or slicked back, depending on what the bird is trying to communicate.

[Blue Jay tweedle song]

When jays are sitting on eggs, feeding their young, or hanging out with their mate, their crests lie low. But in the case of heightened arousal, like in courtship or conflict, a jay’s sharply raised crest tells a tale.

[Blue Jay call, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/120042551 0.06-.10]

The same goes for Northern Cardinals and, perhaps, most crested birds. Even birds without crests, like crows or sparrows, sometimes puff up their short crown feathers.

Why some species have crests and others don’t remains a complex evolutionary question dating back to the dinosaurs.

[Blue Jay call, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/120042551 0.06-.10]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

###

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Blue Jay ML 237006 recorded by B Mcguire; ML 77280 Blue Jay by W Hershberger.

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   June 2019

ID#  crest-01-2019-06-19  crest-01

Sights & Sounds

Home
Shows
Galleries
More