Friendly little blue jay becomes the town’s pet
Gainesville has its own mascot.
Meet Bird, the friendly little blue jay flying around town, landing on people and begging for food.
Bird was raised by Gainesville resident Trish Navarro after her great-granddaughter called the baby blue jay out of its nest near her family’s home in Wasola.
“Mackenzie [Lane] found the first one the day before,” said Navarro. “It had fallen out of the nest, but the dogs got to it and it didn’t make it.
The next day, Navarro was at her granddaughter’s Wasola home, babysitting Mackenzie, when she heard the little girl calling to someone outside. “She was standing there under the tree [with her arms open] looking up at the nest going, ‘Come on, bird, come on. I’ll catch you.’ And this little bird came out,” Navarro said.
Navarro said Mackenzie’s parents (Navarro’s granddaughter Amber Lane and her husband, Jeff) fixed up a little pen and put the bird in it to keep it safe. However, when Navarro went back a few days later, she found the family’s dogs and cats at the pen door, wanting to get to the little bird.
“I thought, ‘That’s no good. Makenzie will come home, and all she’ll find is a bunch of feathers,’” she said. “So I took it home.”
Navarro said her granddaughter discovered the little bird could eat small bits of dog food if the food was soaked and soft. She said her intention was to nurse it back to health.
“She didn’t intend on keeping it,” Jeff Lane said. “She was just taking care of it until it could fly. I guess it took an attachment to her.”
“He was such good company,” said Navarro. “But I knew I couldn’t keep him.”
Navarro brought Bird to her home in Gainesville on June 12. For six weeks Bird lived with her, and she took care of him.
In many pictures and videos, Navarro has documented the unique relationship between her and Bird.
She hand fed Bird “like the momma birds do,” she said. When she stopped hand feeding him, Bird let her know, loudly, he was not happy with that decision.
One of the little blue jay’s favorite things to do was sit on Navarro’s ceiling fan.
“I had to turn it off because he flew into it a couple of times,” she said. “I was afraid he would get hurt. He likes sitting on it and hopping from blade to blade. That makes the blades turn a little, like a little bird amusement ride.”
Bird likes a variety of food now, said Navarro. “He likes apples, nectarines and cucumbers – but only the little tender cucumbers, not the big ones. He will take a piece of it, and if it’s one of the big ones, he’ll spit it out. “I tell him, ‘for a starving little bird you are picky.’”
Navarro learned she couldn’t turn her back on her own food. “I had a bowl of food on the counter and turned around before I heated it up to eat. I turned back around, and there he was, the little thief, eating the green beans,” she said.
At times, Bird would even join Navarro on a car ride. “She would say, ‘Come on, Bird,’” said Lane. “It would fly in the window and sit in the seat.”
But near the end of July, Navarro knew her time with Bird was close to ending. He was healthy, his tail feathers had grown and it was time to let him go.
“The first night I let him out, he stayed away all night and came back the next day,” she said. “He flew right into the house and didn’t go out that night or the next night.
“But after the second time he went out, he hasn’t been back.”
But that wasn’t the last Navarro would see of her feathered friend.
Bird has taken up residence as the town pet in the past month and a half, flitting from house to house, person to person and business to business, visiting with and sharing food with the residents of Gainesville.
Navarro, who lives in town near First Baptist Church, said he’s been seen all over town.
One of his favorite places seems to be Town & Country Supermarket, where workers and shoppers alike give him food.
“He’ll come up behind you and land on your head or shoulders,” said Sonja Runion. “Some people will leave out bird seed for it, and you’ll see him sitting on cars trying to crack open a seed. “I think it’s neat, although it’s giving some customers a fright because they aren’t used to it.”
“He lit on the open hatch of my van right above my head,” customer Nancy Simpson said in a Facebook comment. “Then he lit on the handle of my shopping cart, so I held out a piece of pretzel, and he took it right out of my hand and flew off with it. He came back in a bit and took a pretzel from my daughter’s hand…I was hoping we might see him again at HnH (Hootin an Hollarin)!”
Town & Country employee Sheila Sadler was one of the first to see him at the store.
“He just appeared one day on the back dock, hungry,” she said. “I spent one lunch hour out there with him and shared my lunch with him. I call him Cheep Cheep because when we’d feed it, it would hunker down and go ‘cheep cheep,’ like ‘momma, feed me.”
Other residents have also given the little visitor their own names.
On the Gainesville square, The Hair Shop owner Mischa Fero and her staff call him LL Cool Jay. He visits frequently, eating and landing on people’s shoulders and heads.
Gainesville resident Jessi Dreckman discovered “Blue” Sunday morning at her home off Highway 160.
“The friendliest blue jay I’ve ever met,” she said in her Facebook post. She said she was trying to grade papers, “but he’s decided we’re best buds. He insists on perching on my chair, right beside my face.”
Bird also makes appearances at the Ozark County Courthouse.
“It was catching bugs at the courthouse,” wrote Dawn Carr. “It stayed on the railing watching me as I took the trash out. That weekend he was still there, and two boys…was throwing things at him and spitting at him…I ran them off, naturally.”
And Gainesville resident Duane Dean, who lives near Town & Country, had a unique excuse to call in and say he was unable to work for a couple of days.
“Bird poked Duane’s eye,” said Navarro. “Bird was hanging out at his house. Duane wears glasses but he had his glasses on his head. There were gnats flying around, and Bird was trying to get one and got Duane in the eye instead. He missed two days of work because of it.”
Navarro hopes Bird stays around, even though he hasn’t been back to her home since he left. “I wonder if he’ll drift back up to the house when it gets cold,” she said. “I’m not sure his new friends will want him in their house.”