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Steller's Jay


The Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is the western North-American counterpart of the Blue Jay, but the Steller's is easily distinguishable from the Blue Jay by its dark, gray-black head and upper back, and its deep indigo-blue wings and tail lacking the white spots of the Blue Jay. The Steller's Jay is a typical loud, aggressive, omnivorous member of the "corvid" family that includes crows and magpies. It eats pine seeds, nuts, berries, small vertebrates, insects, and the eggs and young of smaller birds. The Steller's Jay is a regular visitor at birdfeeders and campgrounds and is well-known for its variety of vocalizations, including a rapid "shek-shek-shek", a rasping "chee, chee", good imitations of the Northern Flicker and Red-tailed Hawk, and a quieter mating song consisting of a series of gurgling and popping sounds.

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Field Marks:

The Steller's Jay has a gray-black head, crest and upper back (except in Mexico where they are blue), indigo-blue wings and tail with fine black barring on the wings, blue underparts, and a heavy black bill. (L 11.5 in.)


The Steller's Jay is a year-round resident from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska south along the west coast to San Luis Obispo, California, and in the interior mountains from northwestern Canada and the western U.S. south to Mexico and discontinuously to Nicaragua. There are occasionally large-scale irruptions of Steller's Jays in the fall of the year, especially in British Columbia, where Steller's Jay is the provincial bird.

Similar Species:

Blue_Jay_v11-10-084 Blue Jay   (species account)   (all photos)

The Blue Jay is a much brighter bird overall, with a sky-blue crest and upperparts, white wingbars and margins on the inner wings, white tips on the tail feathers, and a gray-white belly.
Western_Scrub-Jay_w22-3-014 Western Scrub-Jay   (all photos)

The Western Scrub-Jay lacks a crest and has grayish underparts.
Pinyon_Jay Pinyon Jay   (all photos)

The Pinyon Jay lacks a crest and has grayish underparts.
Mexican_Jay Mexican jay   (all photos)

The Mexican Jay lacks a crest and has grayish underparts.

Habitat & Nesting:

The Steller's Jay nests in coniferous trees and certain broad-leaved trees located in cleared areas and forest edges from sea level on the West Coast to 10,000-foot elevation in interior mountains.

More Information:

Like the Blue Jay, the Steller's Jay creates its own food "cache" by foraging for nuts and hiding them in and around trees. Steller's Jays also "mob" potential predator birds like hawks and ravens.