Steller's Jay


HabitatSteller's Jay Range vs Blue Jay Range used with permission from wikicommons

Cyanocitta stelleri, otherwise known as Steller’s Jay is known to have a large range in western North America.  Steller’s Jay can be found anywhere from the southern coast of Alaska to North Central Nicaragua.  The range follows the Rocky Mountains down from Alaska all the way to Nicaragua (ADW 2001).  These birds can also be found as far west as the Pacific Coast and as far east as Eastern Colorado.  The Steller’s Jay’s range covers a large area and it can be found in seven countries including Canada, United States, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua. 

The map to the right compares the ranges of Steller's Jay (Red) and the Blue Jay (Black).  Theses birds have come in contact in Colorado and other states along their range border.

Steller’s Jay can be found in dense coniferous forests, coniferous-broadleaved woodlands, and deciduous forests.  The number of jays tends to increase near breaks in the forest (Mann 1983).  Steller’s Jay also stick to the cover of the high canopy in the trees.  Steller’s Jay are typically found in elevations between three thousand and ten thousand feet (AAB 2005).  In some cases they may be found at lower elevations such as the evergreen forests of the Pacific coastal foothills.  They have also adapted to environments alongside humans such as campgrounds, parks, and backyards (AAB 2005).

Coniferous forest Photo by Katsey used with permission from wikicommons

Nest Location
Steller’s Jay tends to build nests in conifers when possible.  They will also use deciduous trees when they have a lot of leaves.  Trees near clearings are usually favorable to Steller’s jay compared ones deeper in the forest (Mann 1983, Vigallon and Marzluff 2005).  Trees with more dense leaf cover are also preferred when considering a nest location.  They typically live in a nest built from the twigs and needles acquired from the tree.  Steller’s Jay also use mud to build the nest.  Nests are typically 3.5 meters or higher in young trees (Mann 1983).  The nests are usually near the top of the tree but nests have been seen in bushes near the ground.  The Steller’s Jay has a habit of building nests on horizontal branches close to the trunk of the tree (Brown 1930).  In some cases they have adjusted to urban environments by building nest under roofs.  Nests are also commonly found near windows, buildings, and paths.  In some cases nests have also been found in barns and other buildings.  Although nests have been found in urban and suburban environments the amount of nests increase with more tree cover and decrease with more roads and infrastructure (Kalinowski and Johnson 2010).

Animals sharing the same habitat
Some other birds that have overlapping range include Clarks Nutcracker typically found at higher elevations and the Scrub Jay found at lower elevations.  Steller’s Jay often steals food from Clarks Nutcraker, Gray Jay, and the Acorn Woodpecker.  In the southern portion of the Steller’s Jay’s range it also comes into contact with the Mexican Jay.  Some common trees used for nests that are found in the Steller’s Jay’s range are Douglas-fir, western hemlock, amabilis fir, grand fir, Sitka spruce, western red cedar, and arid-pine oak.  Common predators sharing a habitat include Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, and Northern Goshawks (Greene et al 1998).  Red squirrels also share the habitat and have been known to eat Steller’s Jay eggs.

Scrub Jay after a bird bath Photo by Jessica Merz used with permision from wikicommonsRed-tailed Hawk perching on a tree branch Photo by Mark Bohn used with permison from wikicommons

During the winter Steller’s Jay have appeared in desert habitats.  Steller’s Jays don’t tend to migrate but groups that mate at higher elevations do typically move to lower elevations during the winter.  In some cases younger birds travel in flocks and can be found outside the normal range (AAB 2005).  Steller’s Jay has been spotted multiple times outside the normal range in Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Kansas, and central Texas.  Even though they don’t migrate as a species, individual birds have been known to travel several-hundred kilometers (Greene et al. 1998).

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