Woodland Birds, Pacific Northwest
The Steller’s Jay with its deep blue and black plumage and shaggy crest, is a stunning and attractive, but very noisy. Its front part is black and its rear is deep blue.
The dark shade of the front part of its body extends down its back and down its breast and its wings have a faint dark stripe. One distinguishing trait of the Steller’s Jay is the vertical blue eyebrows present above each eye of the adult bird. The male and female jays look alike.
The steller’s jay generally likes to build its nests in dense coniferous forests. Both the male and the female birds help to build the cup like nest from moss, twigs, weeds, and leaves, held together with mud. The linings for the nest are normally provided by rootlets, pine needles, and other fine material.
Typically, the female lays up to 5 eggs which she incubates for up to 18 days. Feeding the young is the responsibility of both the male and the female. After 16 days, these young birds leave the nest to find their own food. They begin making short flights as fledgling but after 30 days, they are capable of sustained flights. In spite of this, however, the adult birds continue to provide food for the fledglings for about another month.
Steller’s Jay form monogamous pair bonds that last for a long time. Once mated, the pair always move around their territory together. They help one another build their nest and while the female is incubating the male bird guards the nest and his partner. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female provide the young birds with food. The male bird guides his offspring as they learn how to fly.
Their diet is made up of seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, bird eggs, nestlings, invertebrates, suet, small rodents, reptiles, and carrion. Steller’s jays also eat any leftovers or scraps that humans throw their way.
They are often seen in parks and picnic areas loudly begging for food and scraps in a loud and raspy voice. Extremely vocal outside of the nesting season, these birds can be so extremely quiet when they are in the process of caring for their young. Intelligent and aggressive, the steller’s jay is very active at feeders especially those full of peanuts which it caches for later consumption.
The Steller’s Jay will stash its food all summer long in the crotches of tree branches and then forgets where he put most of it. This is a great benefit to other birds that use these stashes during the Island winter.
The Steller’s Jay has been called the Blue Jay on the coast quite regularly but this is not accurate as the Blue Jay is the name of an eastern bird (Cyanocitta cristata) that has begun to show up in western North America.