Steller’s Jay

Steller's Jay, California

Steller’s Jay, California

The only crested jay west of the Rockies, the Steller’s Jay can be found in forested areas, primarily coniferous.  In the same Genus as the Blue Jay, they are strictly found in western North America.


Birders associate them, and rightly so, with the mountains.  When you hear that characteristic shuck-shuck-shuck you know the elegant crested jay is nearby.  Cyanocitta stelleri also have many other sounds.  Like other birds in the corvid family, they mimic birds.  I am still sometimes fooled when a very talented steller’s jay does a spot-on impersonation of a red-tailed hawk.


Like all jays, their size is quite large.  The steller’s jay is about 11 inches (29 cm) long.  Their omnivore diet is variable with berries, fruit, insects, spiders, bird eggs, and even table scraps.  In the fall, they can be seen doggedly collecting acorns all day long in preparation for the winter.  They cache acorns in the ground or tree for later consumption.  These amazing jays are equipped for opening hard acorns with special modifications of the bones near the base of the jaw, to help brace the lower mandible when pounding.


You can read about the steller’s jay here.


The adult male and female of the species do not differ, but the juvenile does.  Juveniles generally have paler coloring than their parents.  We have arrived, in the northern hemisphere, at that time of year when the juveniles are now on their own.  Where I live the steller’s jays are now in their teen stage.  There are six or seven around the feeder at one time, squawking and squabbling as jays do, and showing themselves to be quite demanding, like teens (heh-heh) can sometimes be.  It’s all a joy.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


56 thoughts on “Steller’s Jay

    • I had a “teenage” Stellar Jay loudly squawking in my backyard while I was sitting on my deck. It then surprised me, landed on the handrail and hopped right at me still squawking to about 2 feet away! Gotta say it scared the heck out of me, lol~ Wish I had a camera in my hands

  1. Jet is there a reason known why the bird has such unusual, or maybe it’s not so unusual, feathering 9 cresting) on it’s head? Such a shocking blue Mohawk hair cut.

    • Isn’t that a great crest, Sue? To answer your question, crests are usually considered important in display, but I’ve also read that some birds (not necessarily the steller’s) have also been found to use their crests for buoyancy in flight and to sense vibrations. Crests date back to the dinosaurs, several species had feathers on their heads. Wonderful to talk today! 😀

  2. When we first arrived in Canada I thought these birds so beautiful. Since discovering what bullies they are, I fear their beauty has lost it lustre for me. They scare all the other birds away from our feeders then disappear themselves, nasty!

    • Whenever I encounter a bully-type of human, I remember the jays and have learned how to squawk back if it’s called for. I learn a lot from all my wild friends, but the jays have taught me this. Thanks for stopping by Joanne. 😀

      • Yes, I’m slowly learning that lesson. My mother always taught me not to engage with bullies but I’ve found when you do that, the bullies take it as a challenge. Speaking up certainly does seem to be the solution… of sorts.

    • Yes, Brick, they’re not nearly as prevalent in the U.S. as the blue jay. I never see them outside the mountains, and only in the west. Very glad you enjoyed the post! 😀

  3. Gorgeous bird – and Athena’s photo is far more beautiful than the one on your link 😉 I cannot imagine what it would be like to see ONE of these large stunning Jays up close, not to speak of having a whole family!

  4. Hi Jet – beautiful photography by Athena. The Stellar Jay is so striking in his pose. Another bird to add to my list drawings. I appreciate your interesting narrative. I always learn something new from your posts.
    Have a great day.

  5. Great looking birds, superb plumage colors! I’ve never photographed one of these yet. Thank you Jet for the nice post! 🙂

    • Aren’t they gorgeous, HJ? This is one of the rare birds you’ll not see one at your feeders, but maybe sometime when you’re traversing the western U.S. Thanks so much, my friend. 😀

  6. What a cute bird with lovely blue color! It’s amazing how they mimic the calls of other birds…and interesting too how males and females are not distinguishable in their characteristics but the young ones instead.

    • Yes people often think that the male is the splashy bird and the female is the dull one; and often that is true. But not for all species, some species the male and female, like the steller’s here, look the same. So very glad you enjoyed the post, Lia. 😀

  7. They are beautiful, but they can be pests too. They chase the other birds away from feeders and dig through the seeds for the larger morsels, scattering the rest. That being said I have spent a lot of time watching their antics and love seeing them in the snow, their coloring makes a vivid contrast against the white.

  8. Interesting looking bird. The head looks as if it was plucked off of another bird and plunked down on that beautiful blue body.

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