Mendocino Coast Audubon Society logo Mendocino Coast Audubon Society

Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay by Pam Huntley, as heard on

Although blue, and a jay, our black-crested raucous friend is named Steller's Jay after the German explorer, Georg Wilhelm Steller, who, on an Arctic expedition in 1741, first “collected” this type of jay. This bird and its raspy call are known to most of us, as it has adapted remarkably well to humans. It is often seen on low branches around campsites or in our yards waiting for its opportunity to snatch up any part of our lunch or a bite of dog food.

The Steller's Jay has a dusky black head, crest, and back, and a dark blue body with heavily barred wings and tail. My favorite part is the beautiful forehead with its turquoise stripes. Males and females look alike.

In spring, rowdy flocks change to quiet secretive pairs at their nesting sites. The female incubates three to six light blue-green speckled eggs and is fed by the male.

The Steller's and the Blue Jay of the East Coast are the only jays with a crest and the only New World jays that use mud in their nests. The Blue Jay has expanded its range westward and where the two overlap they occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.

These jays produce a scream that sounds amazingly like a Red-tailed Hawk. It is thought to be used to scare small songbirds from their nests, allowing jay to fly in and eats the eggs or nestlings.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan October 2012
Steller’s Jay. Photo by Ron LeValley