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Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica


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Western Scrub Jay, Woodhouse population
credit: Peter Wallack/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Corvidae, Crows, Magpies, Jays view all from this family

Description ADULT Pacific bird has a gray-brown back, but otherwise mostly dark blue upperparts; note, however, the dark cheeks and faint white supercilium. Throat is whitish and streaked, with discrete demarcation from otherwise grubby gray underparts. Adult interior bird is similar, but underparts are darker. JUVENILE Has mainly dull gray head, back, and wing coverts, with blue flight feathers and tail. Underparts and forehead are whitish gray.

Dimensions Length: 11-13" (28-33 cm)

Habitat Common and widespread resident of scrubby woodland and chaparral, especially with pinyon, juniper, and oak.

Observation Tips Easiest to see near the Pacific coast.

Range Northwest, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, California

Voice Utters a harsh, nasal cheerp, cheerp, cheerpÖ and other chattering calls.

Similar Species Island Scrub-Jay A. insularis (L 12-12.5 in) is an endemic resident of Santa Cruz Island, off Californian coast. Similar to Western, but larger and more colorful. Note particularly the adult's brighter blue upperparts, dark brown back, and black cheeks. Juvenile has mainly gray upperparts with blue flight feathers and tail; underparts are pale gray.

Discussion Distinctive bird with a typical jaylike appearance: slim body, long tail, and stout, and rather elongated bill. Occurs as two subspecies groups in U.S.: Pacific birds (comprising three subspecies found on the Pacific coast) are more colorful than interior birds (three subspecies that occur inland). Some individuals, particularly Pacific birds, are bold, tame, and inquisitive, and easy to see; birds from interior south and east of range are more retiring and unobtrusive. An opportunistic feeder with an omnivorous diet that includes berries, fruits, insects, and the eggs and young of songbirds. Sexes are similar.