Steller’s Jay

Cyanocitta stelleri

Steller’s Jay
Photo courtesy of Tom Grey

Steller’s Jays are known for their mischievous behavior and as nest robbers. They are possibly the noisiest resident of the forest—their raucous squawking can be heard throughout the forest. Jays are accustomed to picnic areas and campsites. They are often seen sitting in treetops. However, they remain silent and shy when near their nest sites.

Description:
A large, blue-bodied bird with black head & crest. It is the only western jay with a crest. Size 12–14 in (30–36 cm).
Voice:
Most common call is a harsh shaack-shaack-shaack-shaack or chook-chook. Also, tchek, tchek, tchek; chu-chu-chu; kee-lu, kee-lu; kweesh-kweesh. They may mimic hawks’ screams.
Food:
Jays are also omnivores birds. They may steal eggs from unattended nests or pick open shells and consume contents in minutes. But 72% of their diet consists of herbaceous material—fruits, grain, acorns. Color plays an important role in determining the Steller’s jays food choices: red is preferred over other colors.
Nest:
Well-hidden nests are built among the treetops. Large sticks are used to construct a nest foundation of 12-16 in. This is covered with a layer of mud and leaves. A deep bowl is made of woven pine needles, small roots and fibers. A clutch is 3-5 eggs; blue or pale green marked with brown. Both male and female birds incubate the eggs for about 16 days. Young jays stay with parents until fall or winter, and then they go out on their own to find their own territory.
Habitat:
Mostly mountain coniferous forests, also pine-oak forests.
Range:
Found throughout western mountains, east to Rocky Mountains; from coastal Alaska down through southern California, into Central America.
Migration:
In winter they may move to lower elevations. However, Steller’s jays are year-round residents in Long Valley and other forest regions, depending upon availability of food source and the amount they have stored.
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