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Western Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma californica ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CORVIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Western Scrub-Jay Photo

The “blue jay” of dry Western lowlands, the Western Scrub-Jay combines deep azure blue with dusty gray-brown and white. The rounded, crestless head immediately sets it apart from Blue Jays and Steller’s Jays. These birds are a fixture of dry shrublands, oak woodlands, and pinyon pine-juniper forests, as well as conspicuous visitors to backyards.

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Birds of North America Online

Songs

Both males and females sing a soft medley of sweet notes that can last up to 5 minutes. Scrub-jays typically do this only during courtship and when the pair is close together.

Calls

Western Scrub-Jays, like other jays, are extremely vocal. Behaviorists have described more than 20 separate types of calls. Examples include a weep uttered during flight, while carrying nesting material, or while taking cover from a flying predator; a bell-like shlenk used antagonistically, a quiet kuk exchanged between mates, and loud, rasping scolds for mobbing predators.

Other Sounds

Scrub-jays often clack their bill mandibles together to make a sharp rapping. Their wings make a whooshing sound on takeoff, and they exaggerated this during altercations.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

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.

Get Involved

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.

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Scrubland Survivors: The precarious existence of the Florida Scrub-Jay

A Naturalist’s Notebook: Western Scrub-Jay

Downloadable "Common Feeder Birds" poster from Project FeederWatch (PDF)

Explore sounds and video of Western Scrub-Jays from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive