Three years ago when Doug Doucette and his wife Twila noticed a Steller’s jay visiting their feeder was covered in red paint, they were confused at first. The couple is used to having several Steller’s jays visit their yard on Kalum Lake Road, but not sporting this new colour.
“We’ve had a family of four or five jays here for the last few years and I think it was about two years ago the first one showed up with paint. Then again, the next year, we saw another one,” Doug says.
This year, the couple spotted two more birds with their tail feathers and feet covered in the same red paint. Doug says they became concerned the birds were being targeted by someone with a paintball gun.
“You could tell the paint was still pretty fresh on it,” Doug says. “We’re outraged, it’s just meaningless. Why are people doing this?”
Conservation officer Tracy Walbauer says the office has not received any calls about Steller’s jays covered in paint in the area, and after viewing the photos he says he is less convinced the birds had been shot with a paintball gun. However, he noted the case is perplexing.
“It almost looks like they’ve jumped into something,” Walbauer says. “If you look at their feet, they’re quite red. It’s like somebody put something out and then had some feed there, and they jumped into it. You’d think if someone was shooting at them, the paint would be all over them.
“I suspect someone is doing this to be silly. They put something out with paint, the birds have hopped in it, and they probably think it’s funny because now they have a red tail.”
What someone thought could be a funny joke is actually harmful to the birds. Sticky substances like paint can weigh the birds’ feathers down and affect their mobility when flying. Dye and paints can be toxic to birds and animals, and even more dangerous if they swallow it.
And though it appears less likely the jays were hit by a paintball gun, projectiles can also be fatal for birds if they are hit.
“It’s definitely not funny. You’re impacting the bird if that’s what’s happening. If we find out who it is, they’re going to have to answer to us,” Walbauer said.
Harming and harassing wildlife intentionally can result in fines or jail time depending on the severity, Walbauer says.
Anyone with information about the red steller’s jays is asked to call the RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277.