Western Scrub-JayAphelocoma californica

adult (Interior)
Brian E. Small/VIREO
adult (Pacific)
Garth McElroy/VIREO
juvenile
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult (Pacific)
Brian E. Small/VIREO
Western Scrub-Jay

Description

11-13" (28-33 cm). Robin-sized, but large strong bill and long tail make it appear larger. Head, wings, and tail blue (conspicuous when it glides in a long, undulating flight); back dull brown; underparts light gray. No crest; dusky face mask. White throat offset by incomplete blue necklace. See Gray-breasted Jay.

Voice

Call is loud, throaty jayy? or jree? In flight, a long series of check-check-check notes.

Listen

calls #3
calls #2
rattles
calls #1

Habitat

Scrub oak, woodlands, and chaparral, but does not breed in low scrub because it needs watch posts; also inhabits suburban gardens.

Range

Resident from Washington, Wyoming, and Colorado south to Texas; also in Mexico.

Discussion

Like all jays, this species may be secretive and silent around its nest or while perching in a treetop in early morning but is frequently noisy and conspicuous. Scrub jays often eat the eggs or young of other birds, but in summer they are mainly insectivorous. These birds also eat acorns and have been described as "uphill planters," counter-balancing the tendency of acorns to bounce or roll downhill. The jays bury many more acorns than they consume and help regenerate oak forests that have been destroyed by fire or drought.

Nesting

3-6 eggs, spotted on darker, greenish or reddish base, in a twiggy nest well hidden in a tree or dense shrub.

Similar Species

adult

Island Scrub-Jay

13" (33 cm). Similar in overall appearance to the crestless Western Scrub-Jay, the Island Scrub-Jay is approximately 15% larger in size with darker blue head, wings, and tail.

adult

Florida Scrub-Jay

11" (28 cm). Robin-sized, but large strong bill and long tail make it appear larger.

adult, Western

Mexican Jay

11 1/2 -13" (29-33 cm). Similar to scrub-jays but larger and more muted, without white markings on throat or above eyes. Dull blue head, rump, wings, and tail; gray back and dusky ear patch.

adult

Blue Jay

12" (30 cm). Bright blue above with much white and black in the wings and tail; dingy white below; black facial markings; prominent crest.

adult, Pacific NW

Steller's Jay

12-13 1/2" (30-34 cm). The only western jay with a crest. Front half of bird sooty black, rear dark blue-gray, with tight black crossbarring on secondaries and tail.

adult

Green Jay

12" (30 cm). Strikingly colored, with bright green body and green tail with yellow on the sides; brilliant blue crown and cheeks; rest of head, throat, and breast black.

adult

Pinyon Jay

9-11 3/4" (23-30 cm). A stocky, short-tailed jay. Long slender bill gives it a resemblance to Clark's Nutcracker. Gray-blue, darkest on head, with white streaking on throat.

adult

Clark's Nutcracker

12-13" (30-33 cm). Pigeon-sized, with flashing black, white, and gray pattern. Light gray, with dark eye and long, sharply pointed bill.

adult, Pacific

Gray Jay

10-13" (25-33 cm). Gray above, whitish below. Forehead and throat white; nape and stripe through eye dull black. Immatures sooty-gray.

Vireo

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