Jays and Juncos – Awareness Game

During our last two meetings we played several games.   One of the games, Jays and Juncos, is a group favorite and helps us become more aware of our surroundings, lest we be eaten!  The game is played like this:  The Juncos are the majority of the birds in the game.  They need to gather food from a food source (an adult handing out one kernel of corn at a time) and put it in their nest.  Their nest is a small paper cup, which they hide when the Jays aren’t looking.

Junco Cambria begging for food.

Junco Cambria begging for food.

There are two Jays raiding the Juncos’ nests.  They are running around trying to find and empty the nests.  If they raid a nest, they empty the kernels into their cups and drop the nest cup on the ground.  The Juncos can re-hide their nest and start over.

Tod introduced a Pygmy Owl to the game in the second round.  Pygmy Owls eat Jays and Juncos.  Jays and Juncos can lay down to “escape” the Owl, but if they are tagged, they are dead for 30 seconds.  Other birds can make alarm sounds when the Owl is near to alert others to the predator.

Elijah is alarming at the Owl and Cambria dove to the ground to hide.

Elijah is alarming at the Owl and Cambria dove to the ground to hide.  Her nest is under the backpack.

I was the food source during the game.  My favorite part was watching the evolution of the Juncos in just a few rounds – they became much better at alarming and having fake nest sites to mis-lead the Jays.  Cambria also discovered that she could dive down in a pretend evasion of the Owl, but really be dropping her food into her nest.

When we played Jays and Juncos during the second week, we had several more kids in the group.  The dynamic changed quite a bit, with just three more people and the previous week’s awareness training.  It was harder for the Juncos to get to their nests on the sly.  The first week Juncos had 8-12 kernels in their nests.  This week, they were lucky to end up with 5 kernels and many more nests were dumped on the ground.

Can you imagine living with these threats?  Whew!

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