Species: Steller’s Jay
Steller’s Jay is British Columbia’s provincial bird. It ranges
from Alaska to Central America and is the western equivalent to its
eastern cousin the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). These jays
have been reported as far east as San Antonio, Texas. Like its
larger relatives the crows and ravens, the Steller’s Jay readily
adapted to urban environments. Its most apparent call is the raspy
Shiak! Shiak! Shiak!
Like most other corvids, Steller’s Jays tend to be larger than other
passerines with blue plumage. It is however smaller than the
Corvus spp. The head can be charcoal black with a prominent
crest. Lightest shades of blue are on the wings which are
interspersed with darker blue banding. Its bill is long and sturdy
with a slight hook. Adults weigh between 100 g to 140 g and measure
between 30 cm to 34 cm in length. Wingspan can be 44 cm.
Males are difficult to distinguish from females visually from a
distance but tend to be slightly larger. Males in breeding condition
could be sexed in-hand for the cloacal protuberance. Audibly, males
tend to produce a high-pitched “gleep”.
Females are difficult to distinguish from males visually from a
distance but tend to be slightly smaller. Females in breeding
condition would have a brood patch. Audibly, females tend to produce
a rattling call.
Juveniles are similarly plumaged like the adults, but it would lack
the blue vertical “brows” and its head is slightly browner.
The Steller’s Jay is a distinctive bird and is readily distinguished
from the Blue Jay. The ranges of both species rarely overlap, but
hybrids were reported from the state of Colorado.
Steller’s Jay can hop about on the ground or in the trees with their
long legs to forage. Their habit of regularly cocking their heads
gives an air of inquisitiveness. They sometimes flock up to 10 or
more together and are known to beg food from humans with their raspy
A common visitor to residential lawns and other urban habitats it is
also at home in more naturalized areas. Its natural habitat is
coniferous to mixed coniferous forests.
Steller’s Jay is named after Georg Wilhelm Steller who was the
naturalist and physician during the Russian expedition to North
America’s northwest in 1741. Sixteen subspecies are recognized
throughout its range. They occur from sea level to 2100 m.
Steller’s Jays are omnivorous. They will forage for fruits,
seeds and nuts and are known to steal the food caches of other
animals. Small vertebrates, insects and other invertebrates are
hunted and jays have even been recorded preying on smaller
passerines such as Dark-Eyed juncos and Pygmy Nuthatches. They
frequently raid the nests of other birds for eggs and nestlings.
Steller’s Jays like many corvids demonstrate intelligent and
opportunistic behavior. They have the ability to mimic the calls of
other animals such as chickens and dogs. They are known to use this
talent to scare other birds from feeders by imitating the calls of
raptors such as the Red-Tailed Hawk. They also often mimic raptor
calls to deter other jays from intruding on their territory.
Steller’s Jays are year-round residents in British Columbia and not
normally migratory. Birds that live in higher elevations move down
slope during winter.
Monogamous pairs typically form long-term bonds. Like the Blue Jay,
the Steller’s Jay is the only jay species in the Americas known to
use mud in nest construction. The mud is used to bind twigs, moss,
leaves and even human trash to form a bulky cup up to 25 cm in
diameter. The cup is lined with softer materials such as pine
needles and hair. A clutch of 2 – 6 light green-blue eggs with
brown, purple or olive speckles are laid. The female incubates the
eggs for about 16 -18 days. The brood fledges about 16 days after
hatching, but is still sustained by the parents for a month.
Jays will form flocks outside of the breeding season termed a
"band", "cast", "party" or "scold".
Conservation Status: (Least Concern)
opportunistic Steller’s Jay expanded its portfolio of habitats and
population during the past 20 years as the North American west coast
succumbed to urban sprawl and other development. Its reputation as a
nest predator would make it a concern for other less adaptable
The Steller’s Jay is a conspicuous bird of western conifer
and mixed conifer forests. Capture rate (2010-2012;
standardized as birds captured per 100 net hours) occurs in
the fall as juveniles disperse from areas on the perimeter
of Colony Farm and forage in thickets close to the banding