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Birds and Wildlife

Steller's Jay
Polly Adcock
March 2021

My first time to see this bird happened when I did not own a bird book. I lived in a rural clearing near a forest in Western Montana. Buford's dog bowl with Kibbles and Bits was selectively eliminated of either the rounds or the squares (nearly 40 years ago and don't remember that detail) “How is that dog able to do THAT?” I said. One morning as I stood near the kitchen door, I heard plinking of the metal bowl and looking out there was my answer, a most beautiful dark shiny blue bird with a black head and CREST. . . . . STELLER'S JAY

According to the Audubon Society's 1980 Encyclopedia, the jay was named for Georg Wilhelm Steller, a German zoologist who shot the first species along the coast of Alaska in 1741.

In this particular reference I had to go to the CROW family to find anything and after reading about it, this jay IS as noisy as a crow making a shaack-shaack-shaack sound as well as mimicking other birds, especially birds of prey like the red-tailed hawk.

This jay is the largest in NA ranging between 11.5 and 12.5 inches and it is found west of the Rockies from Alaska to Mexico and the only jay in the west with a CREST. It prefers coniferous forest. It will build its nest on a horizontal limb near the trunk or crotch of a conifer 8-15 feet above ground BUT sometimes as much as 100 feet in large conifers. Making the nest of large sticks cemented together with mud, it will line the cup with rootlets or pine needles.

The species is known to be monogamous and the courtship feeding is done by the male. (Husband's remark, “Oh he takes her out to eat?”) The Jays stay secretive until the young have fledged and they can forage together.

Speaking of food, these jays are like the CROWS; they are considered omnivorous (which means will eat anything!) This includes insects, bird eggs, young of other birds, snails, frogs, snakes, and carrion (it's dead and stinks!) However, 70 percent of the annual diet is comprised from pine seeds, acorns and fruit. It caches seeds and acorns for winter larder. Also, it will visit feeders. The Reader's Digest NA Wildlife gave most of its print to the behavior of landing on a tree near the bottom and working its way upward by hopping from branch to branch, leaving that tree and repeating the action some place else.

Presently there are one or two who visit my trees and feeders.