The Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma california) is a non-migratory member of the Corvidae family found in scrub and dry woodlands of oaks and piñon pine from Washington to Baja California. They are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders, taking mostly arthropods and fruit in the spring and summer and nuts like acorn and pine in the fall and winter. Click on images for full sized photo.
These clever birds store individual food items for later consumption and use spacial memory to retrieve cashed seeds and other stored items. Up to 6,000 piñon seeds or 5,000 acorns may be cached per individual in one autumn1. They have also been observed to recashe items if another jay had seen their stash place, once that observer was gone, thus avoiding their stash being pilfered.
They have also learned how to hang upside down and feed from my suet feeder. It doesn’t take long for a half dozen Western Scrub-Jays to finish off a suet block.
They are beautiful birds in the own right and lots of fun to watch as they come screaming into the feeding station, scaring the songbirds away momentarily as they hop from branch to branch, grabbing beaks full of sunflower seed from the feeders or from the ground, sometimes being chased off by other, apparently more dominant conspecifics.
Obviously, being closely related to magpies and crows, these birds are smart and resourceful but their antics and bright colors make them even more fun to have visiting your back yard.
To see the Island Scrub-Jay, listed as vulnerable due to the fact that they are found only on Santa Cruz Island, off the coast of California, check out Corey’s post. If you want to see more great bird photos, check out World Bird Wednesday.
References:1 Birds of North America Online