February 2nd, 2019

California Scrub-Jay

Appearance

The California Scrub-Jay is a medium-sized bird, approximately 11-12" in length including the tail. The California Scrub-Jay differs outwardly from the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay by having a bright blue back, pale underparts and sometimes dark distinct breast-band. It's bill is slightly hooked and is dark in color. Some might mistake a scrub jay for a blue jay, but they are two completely different bird species altogether.

Geography

The California Scrub-Jay is a species of Scrub-Jay native to western North America and ranges in the coastal states of the western U.S., from Washington to California and south to the southern tip of Baja California. The California Scrub-Jay is a non-migratory bird and can be found in urban areas, and often in residential backyards where they can become familiar with bird feeders year round.

Scientific

Formerly considered part of the Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) complex, the California Scrub-Jay is now considered a different species of bird. It was officially determined to be its own separate species as of 2016 when ornithologists declared them to be different enough from each other to split them up as two separate species altogether. The split resulted in the two species being recognized today as the California Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma Californica) and the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma Woodhouseii).

Diet

California Scrub-Jays are omnivorous and their diet is split between winter and summer. Eating mostly seeds in winter such as acorns, nuts, grass seeds, sunflower seeds and berries, and insects in summer such as moths and caterpillars. They will also eat small reptiles, amphibians and eggs from other birds.

According to Joan Morris, Bay Area News Group, California scrub-jays are considered "bully birds." Because they are bigger than the average backyard bird, they are confident to use their size when getting first in line at a backyard bird feeder. Scrub-jays are known to be very aggressive when it comes to establishing rights for a food source, as you might even notice them diving at birds that come to close to their establish perimeter, verbalizing their anger and dissatisfaction at the same time. They will also team-up with other scrub-jays to attack birds that are considerably larger than they are. Don't worry, if there are scrub-jays in your neighborhood you may still have other birds in your backyard. You may want to place more than one feeder, and place different kinds of food in each one and you are sure to attract dove, sparrows, mockingbirds, finch and others. 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.

Nesting

Both the male and female are involved in selecting, initiating and building a nest. Once eggs are hatched, fledglings are fed by both parents. Once the young leave the nest, the parents take care of and feed them for about another month or so. Potential nest sites are often well hidden in the foliage of trees, shrubs or vines, usually fairly low, 5-15' above the ground, but sometimes higher. California Scrub-Jays are good at building nests and will take the time to construct thick-walled cup of twigs and grass, lined with rootlets and sometimes animal hair.

Calls and Songs of a California Scrub-Jay

Songs - Both the male and the female sing melodies of soft sweet notes. Scrub-jays usually sing in this manner when the pair is in close proximity, and during the period of time leading up to mating.
Calls - Bird calls of the California Scrub-Jay are typically harsher than it's close cousins, and they are not shy when it comes to vocalization. It's call vocabulary can showcase more than 20 separate types of calls which can be a weeping sound, a bell-like shlenk, a quiet kuk exchanged between mates, and loud rasping scolds toward their predators. Listen to the actual sounds of a scrub-jay.
Other Sounds - Scrub-jays often clack their upper and lower beak parts together (upper mandible and lower mandible) in order to make a sharp rapping sound. They will also flap their wings abruptly during disputes.

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