This and Pinyon Jay are the only large blue birds without a crest that you're likely to see in most of the western United States. Pinyon Jays are stockier, shorter-tailed (almost crow-shaped) and plainer blue overall. If you live in Central Florida and think you've seen this species, you've seen the very similar but much less numerous Florida Scrub-Jay. (There's another species of scrub-jay on California's Channel Islands, the Island Scrub-Jay.) If your blue bird has a black crest, it's a Steller's Jay; if the crest is blue you have a Blue Jay. Western Bluebirds and Lazuli Buntings are also blue, but are much smaller, with shorter legs, beak, and tail. The Mexican Jay of far southern Arizona and New Mexico has an all-blue back and lacks the scrub-jay's necklace.
Birds along the Pacific Coast are sharply marked, with a bold blue necklace against white underparts and a distinct brown back. Great Basin birds (called "Woodhouse’s" scrub-jay and sometimes considered to be a different species) are grayer overall, the necklace is less contrasting, and the back patch is grayish blue.
Western Scrub-Jays are fond of sunflower seeds and peanuts at feeders. If you have dense shrubs or small trees in your yard, a pair might build a nest.
Find This Bird
Look for this bird in suburbs, parks, and along roadsides at low elevations, or flying overhead on rounded, fluttering wings. Listen for the raspy scolds and weep calls these birds use to communicate.
The Western Scrub-Jay is a focal species for Project NestWatch. Join and contribute your observations!
Western Scrub-Jays are one of the top 25 feeder birds for California and the Southwest, according to Project FeederWatch. Report your counts of jays and other birds at your feeders this winter.