Living Bird Magazine
Steller's JayCyanocitta stelleri
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
A large, dark jay of evergreen forests in the mountainous West. Steller’s Jays are common in forest wildernesses but are also fixtures of campgrounds, parklands, and backyards, where they are quick to spy bird feeders as well as unattended picnic items. When patrolling the woods, Steller’s Jays stick to the high canopy, but you’ll hear their harsh, scolding calls if they’re nearby. Graceful and almost lazy in flight, they fly with long swoops on their broad, rounded wings.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Drive into the mountains, and as soon as an evergreen canopy closes over your head you can start looking for Steller’s Jays or listening for their scratchy, scolding calls. Also keep an eye out around feeders, backyards, picnic tables, and campgrounds, where they are probably already watching you, sizing up their prospects for a handout.
- Chara de Steller (Spanish)
- Geai de Steller (French)
To attract Steller’s Jays to your feeders, put out peanuts or other large seeds and nuts as well as suet. If you see jays hogging your feeders and taking large numbers of seeds, they may be carrying some away to store in a cache to help them get through the winter. 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.
- Cool Facts
- Steller's and Blue jays are the only North American jays with crests. The Blue Jay is expanding its range westward. Where they meet, the two species occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.
- Steller’s Jays have the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently misspelled names in all of bird watching. Up close, the bird’s dazzling mix of azure and blue is certainly stellar, but that’s not how you spell their name. Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, they named it after him – along with other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.
- The Steller's Jay and the Blue Jay are the only New World jays that use mud to build their nests.
- The Steller's Jay shows a great deal of variation in appearance throughout its range, with some populations featuring black crests and backs, and others blue. One black-crested form in southern Mexico is surrounded by eight other blue-crested forms.
- Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco.
- An excellent mimic with a large repertoire, the Steller’s Jay can imitate birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens, and some mechanical objects.
- The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay was a male, and at least 16 years 1 month old when he was found in Alaska in 1987. He had been banded in the same state in 1972.