For the Birds: Do you really have a Blue Jay in your yard?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Not a blue jay
It's a Steller's Jay
Photo by by Robin Barker
By Christine Southwick

Oops, Blue Jays live east of the Rockies, although there are a few that stray over the Rockies into Eastern Washington every winter.

If you are in Shoreline, that blue bird with the splendid black accents is a Steller’s Jay.

Our resident Steller’s Jay is quite the impressive bird, with its dark blue-black crest with a light blue vertical stripe (eyebrow?) above each eye.

Note: The juveniles have dark brown where the adults have black, and don’t have those startling eyebrows (You’ll start seeing these juvies in late summer-early fall.)

An actual Blue Jay
stock photo
Steller’s Jays have quite the loud voice (calling any Corvid a “songbird” is an anatomical definition only).

During breeding, in dense conifers, they become very inconspicuous and mostly quiet, especially when they are stealing other species eggs or nestlings to feed their own.

Steller's Jays have complex social hierarchies and dominance patterns, and like Black-capped Chickadees, can be seen flying single file across an opening with the dominant pair leading.

Steller's Jays love peanuts
Photo by Bev Bowe
These birds love peanuts, and will cache extra nuts, carefully hiding them. They have an excellent memory, and retrieve these nuts as needed.

Being omnivores, they quickly take advantage of any food source: seeds, nuts and berries, picnic scraps, bugs, reptiles, even carrion.

Once you start feeding them, they will come back like clock-work, loudly announcing their presence, and demanding attention, sometimes even knocking on a window.

Steller’s Jays have year round pair-bonds, and both help build the nest and feed their four-to-five young.

Like crows, the young may leave their nest before they can fly, but the parents are watching and feeding them. So if you see a Steller’s Jay, or any Corvid for that matter, on the ground and it isn’t obviously injured, it does NOT need rescuing. Let the parents take care of their offspring in the manner that works for them. Usually a moving youngster on the ground is safer than one confined to a tight nest.

Just make sure your cat can’t get to them, day or night.

California Scrub Jay
Photo by Blair Bernson
Note: Due to global warming, the other “Robin-sized” blue bird you might see is a California Scrub Jay adventuring into western Washington during the summer, from their drier oak woodlands in California and mid-Oregon. 

There is even the possibility that a couple of pairs of Scrub Jays are breeding in West Seattle.


Anonymous,  April 25, 2018 at 1:08 PM  

So my (male) neighbor gives peanuts to the Jays. My (female) neighbor gives peanuts to the squirrels. And I seem to be raising a bumper crop of peanuts in my planters!

Anonymous,  April 29, 2022 at 3:42 AM  

Thank you for having the photos & information, about the bird I saw outside; This fast moving bird, hopped on the top of her head in our back yard; It was our two foot statue of the Virgin Mary, in her powder blue gown & cape;

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