Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Western Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma californica

Conservation status Apparently declining in numbers in parts of the southwest, but overall still common and widespread.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat Foothills, oak-chaparral, river woods, pinyons, junipers, some suburbs. Found in many kinds of brushy country, but typically where scrub oaks are common; in parts of the west, lives in pinyon-juniper woods with few oaks, the pinyon pine seeds perhaps taking the place of acorns in the bird's diet.
In brushy western foothills, pairs of Western Scrub-Jays are often seen swooping across clearings, giving harsh calls, their long tails flopping in flight. Along the Pacific Coast, they are often common around suburban yards or well-wooded city parks. The scrub-jays living in Florida and on Santa Cruz Island, California, are now considered to be two separate species from the widespread form in the west.
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Feeding Behavior

Forages on the ground and in trees, usually in flocks. Often harvests acorns and buries them, perhaps to retrieve them later.


Eggs

3-6, sometimes 2-7. Usually light green, spotted with olive or brown; sometimes paler gray or green with large reddish-brown spots. Incubation is by female, about 15-17 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: Fed by both parents. Young leave nest about 18-19 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.


Young

Fed by both parents. Young leave nest about 18-19 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.

Diet

Omnivorous. Diet varies with season and region. Eats a wide variety of insects, especially in summer, as well as a few spiders and snails. Winter diet may be mostly acorns, pine seeds, and other seeds, nuts, and berries. Also eats some rodents, eggs and young of other birds, and small reptiles and amphibians.


Nesting

Unlike Florida Scrub-Jay and Mexican Jay, this species breeds in isolated pairs, not in cooperative flocks. Nest site is in tree or shrub, usually fairly low, 5-30' above the ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is a well-built, thick-walled cup of twigs, grass, and moss, lined with fine rootlets and sometimes with animal hair.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Mostly permanent resident. Those in the southwest sometimes stage invasions of the lowlands in fall and winter, probably when wild food crops fail in their usual foothill haunts.

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Migration

Mostly permanent resident. Those in the southwest sometimes stage invasions of the lowlands in fall and winter, probably when wild food crops fail in their usual foothill haunts.

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

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