|Conservation status||Still widespread and fairly common, but has shown recent declines in some parts of range.|
|Family||Crows, Magpies, Jays|
|Habitat||Arid woodlands of juniper and pinyon pine, plus pine-oak woodlands and oak scrub in foothills. Also found in some suburban areas and parks. In winter, may disperse to lowland riverside woods.|
Forages on the ground and in trees, singly or in family units during breeding season, sometimes in flocks at other seasons. Often harvests acorns and buries them, perhaps to retrieve them later.
3-5, 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 17-18 days. Male sometimes feeds female during incubation.
Fed by both parents. Young leave the nest about 18-22 days after hatching, but are tended and fed by the adults for at least another month. Typically one brood per year, occasionally two.
Omnivorous. Diet varies with season. Eats a wide variety of insects, especially in summer, as well as a few spiders and snails. Moth caterpillars make up a major percentage of the items fed to the young. Winter diet may be mostly acorns and other seeds, nuts, and berries. Also eats some rodents, eggs and young of other birds, and small reptiles and amphibians.
Unlike the Florida Scrub-Jay and Mexican Jay, this species breeds in isolated pairs, not cooperative flocks. Pairs typically stay together all year on their permanent territory. Nest site is in a shrub or tree, usually fairly low, 5-15’ above the ground, but sometimes higher. Nest (built by both sexes) is a well-built, thick-walled cup of twigs and grass, lined with rootlets and sometimes with animal hair.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Mostly a permanent resident. May disperse some distance in winter, especially in dry years when the oaks produce poor acorn crops.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsCall is loud, throaty jayy? or jree? In flight, a long series of check-check-check notes.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.