What a beautiful little bird! According to the Crater Lake Institute, four of the six birds mostly like to be seen at Crater Lake in Oregon are corvids: Ravens, Gray Jays, Stellers’ Jays, and Clark’s Nutcrackers (see yesterday’s post about this clever little corvid!)
I know that many of the corvids are scavengers, that they will eat whatever they can find and this is how they survive where other birds do not fare so well. However, having fed many eager steller’s jays peanuts it never occurred to me that they actually DO eat meat, if given the opportunity or if needed. But according to an article about a deer hunter by Carla Petersen1, some hunters hung a deer they had killed in their garage and,
“a Steller’s Jay latched onto the side of the carcass as if it were some kind of a giant suet feeder. That jay was sent packing but more jays were now posted on either side of the garage and weren’t shy about entering if no one was around. [One guy] added a little extra fencing on the doors, hoping to put an end to the intrusions, but the birds were persistent and willing to fly through fairly small gaps.
[Their] final solution was to put a slab of fat outside for the birds. The Steller’s Jays, with much posturing and discussion among themselves, have been feeding there for days, taking turns with the crows and ravens to fatten up for winter the easy way.”
I know the crows and Steller’s Jays I feed prefer peanuts over bread, raw beef, and bird seeds. So, maybe it is a matter of survival — eat whatever is available but if given some leeway, they will choose by taste.
The Steller Jay is a pretty bird found throughout the west coast of North America. This map from Cornell Lab of Ornithology shows its habitat.
They visit our backyard feeders quite often and when they do — it is a treat for us. They are beautiful birds but they have the most awkward call. Go here to listen to its various sounds. Go ahead! This post will wait. =) Isn’t it funny? You would never expect such a grating sound to come from such a pretty bird. However, the Steller’s Jay can also imitate other birds, including hawks, thrashers and loons.
Our Steller’s Jays like peanuts, a lot. They also like the peanut butter/suet mix we put into the log feeder we have. You can always hear when they are visiting. We love it.
Steller’s Jays are social like most corvidae and they like to hang out in flocks or with family. A group of Steller’s Jays are called a cast of Steller’s Jays, a band of Steller’s Jays, a party of Steller’s Jays, a scold of Steller’s Jays or a scolding of Steller’s Jays.
They will scavage in picnics, yards, or campgrounds. They eat insects, carrion, young birds, eggs, acorns, seeds, and peanuts! They can eat just about anything with their powerful beaks and we have seem them swallow peanuts with the shell whole.
The Steller’s Jay lives in woodland habitats, orchards, agricultural areas near woods, and residential areas. They like to nest in conifer trees.
Random tidbits about the Steller’s Jay from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: 1
“Steller’s Jays have the dubious honor of being one of the most frequently misspelled names in all of bird watching. Up close, the bird’s dazzling mix of azure and blue is certainly stellar, but that’s not how you spell their name. Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship. When a scientist officially described the species, in 1788, they named it after him – along with other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.”
“Steller’s and Blue jays are the only North American jays with crests. The Blue Jay is expanding its range westward. Where they meet, the two species occasionally interbreed and produce hybrids.”
“The Steller’s Jay and the Blue Jay are the only New World jays that use mud to build their nests.”
“The Steller’s Jay shows a great deal of variation in appearance throughout its range, with some populations featuring black crests and backs, and others blue. One black-crested form in southern Mexico is surrounded by eight other blue-crested forms.”
“Steller’s Jays are habitual nest-robbers, like many other jay species. They’ve occasionally been seen attacking and killing small adult birds including a Pygmy Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed Junco.”
“An excellent mimic with a large repertoire, the Steller’s Jay can imitate birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, chickens, and some mechanical objects.”
“The oldest recorded Steller’s Jay was 16 years 1 month old.”
Here are some photos we’ve caught of the Steller’s Jay.