Aphelocoma Californica – California Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma Californica - California Scrub-Jay found in the coastal area of western US

Aphelocoma californica or commonly known as the California scrub- jay is a scrub jay species found in western North America. It spans southern British Columbia, California, and western Nevada, around Reno, to the Sierra Nevada west of the Sierra Nevada. Historically, the California scrub jay was combined with the Woodhouse’s scrub-jay and dubbed the western scrub jay. Additionally, the group was combined with the island scrub-jay and the Florida scrub-jay, and the taxon was renamed scrub jay. The California scrub jay is a nonmigratory species that can grow tame and visit bird feeders. While many people refer to scrub jays as “blue jays,” the blue jay is a totally distinct bird species.

Quick Overview: Aphelocoma Californica – California Scrub-Jay
Body size: Around 11 in (28 cm) and a weight of 79 g (2.8 oz)
Main colors: Brown, Gray, White, Blue, Black
Range: Coastal area of Western United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

California Scrub-Jay Description

Western scrub jays come in a variety of colors, including brown, gray, white, and blue. Their beak is rather big, and they have a long tail. These jays have a blue forehead striped with white brows and an eye area that is a blend of gray and black. Their breasts, flanks, and belly are gray or white in color, while their mantle is brown or black in color. Their primary and secondary feathers are blue on their wings. Western scrub-jays are distinguishable from related species by their lack of a crest, the absence of white on their wings, and their distinctive mix of the blue head, white breast, and brown back.

Aphelocoma Californica - California Scrub-Jay found in the coastal area of western US
Aphelocoma Californica – California Scrub-Jay. Photo by: Allan Hack

Size

These birds have a length of 11 in (28 cm) and a weight of 79 g (2.8 oz). Their wings could range from 16 in (41 cm).

Feeding

Western scrub jays are omnivores. Their diet consists of a seasonal mix of animal and plant materials. From October to February, these birds consume acorns and from May to June, fruit. In April, they eat the most animals. Western scrub jays consume a range of fruits and grains, including oats and maize. These birds also eat beetles, honeybees, moths, grasshoppers, and planthoppers.  These jays have developed structures to increase feeding efficiency. Their jaw’s base allows them to whip snakes and caterpillars to the ground.

Habitat

Western scrub jays are frequently encountered in extremely dry, open, and hot coastal settings. It is not unusual to see them in densely populated regions. Although they may be found at heights of up to 3,700 meters, western scrub jays are more abundant in places with dense grass, brush, and low bushes. They are frequently found in forests with a thick canopy of oak and pinon pine trees.

Behavior

Western scrub-jays fly using rhythmic wing beats alternated with gliding flight. They accelerate their wingbeats during predator-prey encounters in order to maintain a certain level of flight in the air. Western scrub jays travel on the ground by hopping. These birds, like other jays, are diurnal, sociable, and rather loud. During the mating season, males defend territories and establish loss hierarchies depending on territory quality. When a member of this species discovers a dead conspecific, they use loud cries to attract other jays to the area. Temporarily, the death of a conspecific also impairs their foraging abilities.

Aphelocoma Californica Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Corvidae
  • Genus: Aphelocoma
  • Species: Aphelocoma californica

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the California Scrub-Jay in the USA

From Washington and Oregon south to California, Texas and Baja California, this species is a resident. Individuals occasionally venture north into southern British Columbia.

Aphelocoma Californica – California Scrub-Jay

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