SCRUB (OR CALIFORNIA) JAY BIOLOGY

Jerry P. Clark Fig.1. Scrub (or California) Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)
Primary State Biologist
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Sacramento, CA 924271-0001.

Scott E. Hygnstrom
Extension Wildlife Damage Specialist
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0819

Fig. 1. Scrub (or California) jay, Aphelocoma coerulescens

Identification

The scrub (or California) jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens, Fig. 1) is distinguished by its crestless head, olive-gray back, and white throat, outlined in blue. Its head, tail, and wings are blue. Calls are harsh, raspy, and varied, often in series of ones or twos. It belongs to the same family (Corvidae) as the other jays, magpies, and crows.

Range

Scrub jays are found in the western United States, parts of Mexico, and in central Florida. Although they do not migrate long distances, they do move to lower elevations in winter.

Habitat

Scrub jays commonly inhabit the oak and brush-covered foothills of the mountains, timbered canyons, river bottoms, oak-lined sloughs and creeks, as well as the shade trees and dense shrubbery of residential areas.

Food Habits

Beal (1910) reported that the diet of the scrub jay consisted of 73% plant and 27% animal matter. The plant matter was about one-third fruits and berries, and two-thirds acorns, nuts, and grain. Nuts and acorns are often stored or hidden for later use, though it is debatable how many hiding places jays remember. The animal matter varied greatly, and included insects, spiders, snails, and small vertebrates, including bird’s eggs and nestlings.

General Biology

Nests are usually found on brush-covered hillsides or in creek bottoms in low bushes, shrubs, and trees. Most nests are located near water, but sometimes they may be found up to a mile (1.6 km) away. Egg laying occurs from early March through June, with the peak occurring in April. Usually 4 to 6 eggs are laid. Incubation lasts about 16 days and the young are able to leave the nest in about 18 days. Scrub jays do not flock to the degree that crows or starlings do. Jays usually feed alone, but where populations are high, they may form nearly continuous lines when flying to and from a food source.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage Logo 1994

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

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