California Scrub Jay

(Aphelocoma californica)

The “blue jay” of dry lowlands along the Pacific seaboard, the California Scrub-Jay combines deep azure blue, clean white underparts, and soft gray-brown. It looks very similar to the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (they were considered the same species until 2016), but is brighter and more contrasting, with a bold blue breast band. The rounded, crestless head immediately sets it apart from Steller’s Jays. These birds are a fixture of dry shrublands, oak woodlands, and backyards from Washington state south to Baja California.

Look closely, and you'll see an intriguing difference between the California Scrub-Jay and its close relative, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. The bill of a California Scrub-Jay is stout and hooked, giving it extra power and grip as the birds hammer open acorns in their oak woodland habitats. By comparison, Woodhouse's have thinner, more pointed bills that nimbly reach deep into pinyon pine cones to pull out the pine nuts inside.


Information from the All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org, © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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© 2020 by AJ Reinhart