Western Scrub-Jays Bring Their Young to the Pond

by Larry Jordan on August 22, 2012

Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) photo by Larry Jordan

The Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica) is a non-migratory bird belonging to the more than 120 species of Corvids, considered the most intelligent of all birds. Click on photos for full sized images.

They inhabit scrub and dry woodlands of predominately oak and piñion pine but also suburban habitats in western North America.

Every year, during the summer months, adult Western Scrub-Jays bring their molting juveniles to the yard and pond to teach their young how to best take advantage of the easy life on the Jordan property.

Scrub-Jays are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. They eat predominately arthropods and fruit in spring and summer and seeds of masting trees, especially oaks and pines, in autumn and winter1. They are known for storing food items for later consumption. Of course where bird feeders are available with sunflower seeds, they stock up when the can.

They do a pretty good job on suet also, no matter what type of feeder you place it in. This adult jay is doing a great job of imitating a clinging bird!

In the fall, when acorns from the oak trees are ripe, Western Scrub-Jays carefully select the optimal seed for storage and carry them off to different locations to feed on later in the year. They are usually stored on the ground, driven into the soil with their bill. A leaf, small rock, or other object is often placed over the site1.

According to the literature, 5,000 acorns may be cached per individual in one autumn. In California, acorns are stored principally September through February and recovered from January to May, peaking in February and March.

These birds are so interesting, I almost forgot that I was bringing you the antics of the juvenile Western Scrub-Jays coming to the pond to drink and bathe.

Note the head and neck is a dull grayish-brown, unlike the adult’s bright blue crown and nape seen in the photos above. You will also notice the fleshy color at the point where the mandibles come together (commissural point) at the base of the bill indicating that this is a juvenile.

They are fun to watch and even though they come into the pond and feeding station screaming, they get along with most of the other birds in the yard. Here is a video I shot at the water feature which ends in a juvenile Western Scrub-Jay taking a bath.

For more great bird photo fun, check out Anni’s Bird D’pot and Stewart’s Wild Bird Wednesday!

References: 1Birds of North America Online

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat August 22, 2012 at 9:11 am

Wonderful still shots and video captures of these beautiful birds!

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Judi @ The Coal Miner and Me August 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

What great photos! I love the way you show their range on the map. Thanks you.

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TexWisGirl August 22, 2012 at 10:40 am

the young ones are really cute, but that first portrait is just gorgeous!

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Mick August 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Great photos – they sound like very intelligent birds and fun to watch as well.

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ladybug from Texas August 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

such a pretty bird…I’ve never seen one before

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Anni August 22, 2012 at 1:23 pm

My goodness, my goodness!!! These images are truly exceptionally extraordinary!!! Such vivid and rich in color. And your captures of the ‘action’ of seed, drinking, and just watching their surroundings are fantastic.

Thanks for linking us this week at the Bird D’Pot

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Gail August 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Awesome shots! I saw my first Western scrub jay in Portland, OR last year. I was so excited. Glad I found your blog. I just subscribed!

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Danielle August 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm

What a beautiful bird!! I saw your burrowing owl video. Our wildlife park (refuge park) just set up a wonderful habitat for three of them….they have them in with the gopher turtles. I love the owls…they are so beautiful. thanks for visiting my place and for your comment….I love becoming more informed about the wildlife that surrounds our beautiful area.

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Boom & Gary August 23, 2012 at 6:03 am

Great sequence!! You gotta’ love any Jays. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
Boom & Gary´s last post ..A Bit of Whimsy At The Vermilon River.

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Tami August 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

What a fun experience! So glad you were able to capture these amazing photos/video and share them with us.

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meg August 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

love your post as it shows not only the great pictures you have of the bird but also the facts about it 🙂
meg´s last post ..Birds in Paradise

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Modesto Viegas (Portugal) August 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Very good post and great photos!
Modesto Viegas (Portugal)´s last post ..Falcão-peregrino

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Dian Miller August 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm

The top shot is stunning!
Dian Miller´s last post ..Bird Safe Glass

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Pia August 24, 2012 at 2:05 am

What a beautiful bird! I’ve never seen one like that before.
Good photos of it too!
I also saw your video, it’s nice to see the birds bathing!

Greeting from Pia in Sweden
Pia´s last post ..Wild Bird Wednesday 6 – Stor och liten

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EG CameraGirl , Canada August 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm

Wonderful post about scrub jays, which remind me a lot of the blue jays that frequent my feeders. How smart of Jays to store food away. I had no idea they were that intelligent.
EG CameraGirl , Canada´s last post ..Energy Plant/Reflections

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Mia McPherson August 25, 2012 at 9:06 am

Larry, these are lovely images and the information your provided on these jays is great!
Mia McPherson´s last post ..White-tailed Deer doe in Glacier County, Montana

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DebbieMiller@HooootOwl August 26, 2012 at 10:17 am

You really captured an array of beautiful shots of the western scrub jay. They fascinate me! Probably because we don’t see them in our area. Your views were a delight, great info and video as well!
DebbieMiller@HooootOwl´s last post ..Art at Elwood … Come See Me!

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Stewart M August 27, 2012 at 3:23 am

Great set of pictures – nice bird to see in the yard!!

As far as I know the chicks of the Brush-Turkey may never even see their parents! They hatch, dig themselves out and are on their own. I suppose the dense bush into which they are born must help – but I have to wonder how many make it though the first few months.

Stewart M
Stewart M´s last post ..Macro Monday _ Rock Layers

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Ingrid October 5, 2012 at 12:38 am

I’m sorry I missed this post in my summer [mental] fog. I love Scrub Jays and miss their raucous presence. The were ubiquitous in our Oakland neighborhood and I didn’t realize how rare they would be in Seattle. Of course, we have plenty of Steller’s Jays, exceptional in their own right, one of whom sits and guilt trips me through my back window everyday.

I had no idea that Scrub Jays mark their caches with leaves and rocks! That adds to my admiration for these birds. Oh, and the video is a fantastic capper to the post. The family that bathes together ….
Ingrid´s last post ..Studies in Godwit

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Frank October 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Just saw one in our Shoreline, WA backyard.

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