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