Two Common Western Jays that are Blue

By Dave Hanks

Jays can be blue, black, gray, brown, and even green. Here in the West, the blue one most often seen at lower elevations is the Scrub Jay. In the higher forested spots, itís the Stellerís Jay. I sometimes hear folks talk about seeing Blue Jays, but Iím always a bit skeptical because that is a bird that is found in the east and to be seen here would be a rare sighting. (Although one was seen a few years back at Malta.) The American Jay Family consists of Ravens, Crows, Magpies, Nutcrackers, Gray Jays, Pinyon Jays, Mexican Jays, Green Jays, Blue Jays, Brown Jays, as well as the two species mentioned above.

Stellerís Jay is the larger of the two and is characterized by a large gray, cardinal-like, crest. They are common in pine-oak woodlands and coniferous forests. Itís a very aggressive bird that will scavenge campgrounds and picnic areas. Their call is a harsh shraach Ė shraach Ė shraach. Scrub Jays do not have a crest, but unlike their cousin that is mostly blue, have a white front with some subtle streaking on their throat. They are common in juniper-pinyon pine stands and their call is a raspy shreeep.

I am always impressed by the resourcefulness and alertness of jays. They seem to be the first to notice any feed that has been proffered and, though they come in very raucous and in big numbers, they alert other species to come to the banquet; which we are always happy for. Intelligent birds Ė I read a piece where, wanting to feed on some nuts and unable to crack them open, a jay dropped them before a stop light. Cars cracked the nuts open when driving over them, and the bird waited until the light turned red to then swoop down to collect the newly exposed food.

Once in Folsom Park, California Ė we put peanuts on a stump. A Stellerís Jay was quick to respond. He also learned quickly to alight on the stump, wait for his photo to be taken, and then get the promised peanut. We also heard a Stellerís Jay imitating an Ospreyís call at Trinity Lakes, Idaho. We looked everywhere for the Osprey, only to discover the jay. Those who say birds are stupid, just donít know birds.

( Scrub Jay top and Stellerís Jay bottom)