Bird of the Week – Steller’s Jay

by Bob Walker

Have you been enjoying the Steller’s Jays this fall? All of northern New Mexico has seen an influx of Steller’s Jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) at lower elevations than is usual. A similar event was observed over four years ago, and reported in the Hawks Aloft blog.

These beautiful Jays are fairly common in the forests of the mountain west, where they feed on a varied diet ranging from seeds to young birds, lizards, snakes, and eggs. They stay in the area year round, but expand their ranges as winter approaches and they search more broadly for food. Closely related to the common Blue Jay of the eastern USA, they sport a prominent black crest, black head and back, a blue belly, and deep blue wings. There are several subspecies of Steller’s Jays, which differ from our interior west Jays in their size and the specifics of their body coloration. Our Steller’s Jays have a prominent white eyebrow and white marks above their eyes.

As pretty as they are, Steller’s Jays can also be pests – robbing the nests of other birds, and even attacking other small adult birds. Their calls are not especially melodic, usually a harsh-sounding, raspy scolding sound. Here is a recording of a Steller’s jay from Colorado:

If you would like to attract Steller’s Jays to your yard, they have a fondness for peanuts, and seem to prefer to forage on the ground – so you can try putting out peanuts (in the shell) on a tray near the ground. In comparison to other jays, they tend to be fairly shy birds, so you may see them waiting their turn at the peanut tray.

You can also find more detailed articles about Steller’s Jays on the web pages at identify.whatbird.com and allaboutbirds.org. Enjoy more beautiful photos of Steller’s Jays at the Alan Murphy and Jacob Spendelow web sites.