Steller's Jay



Although Cyanocitta stelleri is a songbird it has one very interesting adaptation in its capability of producing a wide range of vocalizations (AAB 2005).  The Steller’s Jay tends to be a very loud vocal in all areas besides their own nest.  A few vocalizations are used as a way of attracting a mate but Steller’s Jay is also well known for its mimicking abilities (Greene et al 1998).  Steller’s Jay is able to mimic animals such as squirrels, cats, dogs, loons, chickens, and some mechanical objects (AAB 2005).  They are also able to imitate predators such as the Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Osprey.  Steller’s Jay uses this to clear feeding areas of other birds (Greene et al. 1998).  This gives the Steller’s Jay a clear advantage when it comes to getting food.  Steller’s Jay’s unique ability of mimicking allows for it to compete effectively against other birds in the same ecological niche.  These birds have also been known to start the mobbing of predators.  This is a gathering of numerous birds that use vocalizations to repel the predator (ADW 2001).

Spatial Memory
Steller’s Jay have also developed an enhanced spatial memory.  This was a result of a change in brain morphology caused by demands from the Steller’s Jay’s life history.  The enhanced spatial memory allows for the ability to cache food.  This allows for the long term storage of food and gives Steller’s Jay an advantage during rough times.  It may also increase reproductive success (Rockwell et al. 2013). 

Like many other birds Cyanocitta stelleri normal way of movement includes flight and hopping.  Steller’s Jay uses its wings to fly by forcing air underneath the wing to produce lift.  The breast muscles of the jay must also be strong to keep the wings moving and able to sustain flight (Feather Biology).  Steller’s Jay is able to fly strongly for short distances but is not well equipped to sustain flight for long distances.  Because of this these birds don’t tend to cross large bodies of water.  When traveling on the ground, Steller’s Jay uses its long legs to hop from place to place.  It also uses this method to move up trees by hopping from branch to branch (Greene et al 1998).  This bird is equipped with four toes, three of which are located in the front and one flexible  in the back called a hallux.  This allows Steller’s Jay to grip and maneuver tree branches effectively (WWJ 2014).

Steller's Jay flying away with a peanut Photo by Tracie Hall used with permission form wikicommons

Adaptation to Humans
Steller’s Jay have a few interesting strategies when it comes to coming in contact with humans.  They have been known to build nests on buildings, near parks, and campgrounds. Steller’s Jay typically lives on the edge of forests but they have learned to take advantage of us.  They are often seen sneaking off with unattended picnic food and garbage (ADW 2001).  Steller’s Jay is also frequently seen at birdfeeders eating various seed mixes.

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