California Scrub-Jay overlaps with Woodhouse's only in a limited part of eastern California and western Nevada. California is a deeper, richer blue with brighter gray-white underparts and a much more distinct blue necklace. Pinyon Jay is the only other large blue bird 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. (Another species, the Island Scrub-Jay, lives only on Santa Cruz Island, southern California.) 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, bill, and tail. The Mexican Jay of far southern Arizona and New Mexico has an all-blue back and lacks the scrub-jay's necklace.
A subgroup of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay occurs in southern mainland Mexico and is sometimes called "Sumichrast's" scrub-jay. Compared with the Woodhouse's in the U.S., these show more contrast between blue upperparts and white underparts, and have a less distinct blue necklace. On the Edwards Plateau of Texas, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays are darker blue with a narrower necklace, browner underparts, and a heavier, less pointed bill.
Woodhouse's 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 out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
Find This Bird
Look for this bird in pinyon pine habitats, as well as in suburbs, parks, and along roadsides at relatively low elevations, or flying overhead on rounded, fluttering wings. Listen for the raspy scolds and weep calls these birds use to communicate.
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay is a focal species for Project NestWatch. Join and contribute your observations!
The "Western" Scrub-Jay" (including California and Woodhouse's) is 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.
You Might Also Like
Downloadable Common Feeder Birds poster from Project FeederWatch (PDF)
Explore sounds and video of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive
Scrubland Survivors: The precarious existence of the Florida Scrub-Jay, Living Bird, Autumn 2008.
Naturalist’s Notebook: The Secret Knowledge Of Western Scrub-Jays, Living Bird, Summer 2008.
Naturalist’s Notebook: Two Forms Of The Western Scrub-Jay, Living Bird, Autumn 2009.
Where Is That Bird Going With That Seed? It’s Caching Food For Later, All About Birds, April 13, 2016.
Farewell Western Scrub-Jay!, Project FeederWatch, September 8, 2016.