Dear Joan: We have three cats that now run our household. My side yard and backyard are enclosed with wrought-iron fences that I have strung with rabbit wire. We have been pretty successful in confining the cats to the house and backyard. On the few occasions when one has managed to get out I have always found him or her trying to get back in the yard.
I have a bird feeder that hangs by a shepherd's hook so that any seed that drops to the ground falls outside the fenced in area. However the wind does blow some into the area.
About two months ago I was sitting in the living room with the large cat in my lap when he suddenly jumped down and ran toward the dining area. I followed and found the two siblings on the window sill with a large young adult jay between them. I managed to extricate the bird, which appeared uninjured except that it had no tail feathers. I carried it to the back fence and when I released it, it exploded out of my hands like a shot and flew off into a neighboring tree, scolding all the way. As I walked back to the house I found a neat pile of 12 jay tail feathers, each is 6 inches long, lying on lawn.
I didn't see any jays in the yard for a couple of days and then they returned, including the tailless bird. I saw the jay for a couple of weeks several times a day and then he disappeared and I haven't seen him since.
Can the young jay grow new tail feathers? Did he disappear
Dear John: If the follicles were undamaged, the bird should be able to regrow its tail feathers. They are designed to detach when attacked, leaving the bird safe and the cat with a mouthful of feathers.
Growing back that many feathers wouldn't have been easy. Nature never intended them to lose that many all at once.
The bird probably wasn't shunned. It may have moved on to greener backyards or it may have been attacked by another cat and was not as lucky that time to get away.
Dear Joan: We have a lot of squirrels in our yard (we feed the birds and bird watch for Cornell).
On Saturday we had four black ones that looked like they were very young but their behavior was bizarre. They ran around after one another, jumped straight up into the air at least a foot or more, rolled over into a ball and rolled round the yard, and at least two at a time were doing this.
The gray squirrels went about their business and didn't get involved. We have never seen squirrels act this way, although the black squirrels do seem to play more.
We also have a squirrel we call Harriett who comes to the kitchen window and begs. I notice she has large nipples and is probably nursing little ones so maybe the black ones are her babies. My question: Is this normal behavior or have they been in something or do they have a disease?
Dear Nancy: Squirrels and bizarre behavior seem to go hand-in-hand, which is but one of the reasons people love to watch them.
I doubt very much that the foursome's frolics were anything but normal play for young squirrels. They were just kicking up their heels and enjoying the beautiful weekend.
Black squirrels, once unheard of in the Bay Area, are becoming more commonplace. They are a melanistic subgroup of gray squirrels -- sort of the opposite of albinism. Harriett could be their mother.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.