Steller's Jay




Steller’s Jays are opportunistic feeders and also omnivores.  They primarily feed on nuts, berries, and seeds (AAB 2005).  Their food ranges anywhere from peanuts to chestnuts to salmonberries. They forage the ground and eat whatever they find (AAB 2005).  Steller’s Jays also scavenge when they are around humans.  They will eat anything from unprotected picnic items to garbage left behind by campers (AAB 2005).  This causes soSteller's Jay eating a seedme people to think of Steller’s Jays as a nuisance because of their presence at some campgrounds (ADW 2001).  Steller’s Jays are considered nest robbers.  They are known to steal and eat eggs of other bird species.  The usual victims are small birds like the Pygmy Nuthatch and the Dark-eyed Junco.  Sometimes they even eat the nestlings, baby birds (AAB 2005).  Steller’s Jays also eat small invertebrates, like insects.  Steller’s Jays prepare for winter differently than birds generally do in the Midwest.  Steller’s Jays live in northwestern United States, and they just stay in lower elevations during the winter (ADW 2001).  To prepare for winter, they store their nuts and seeds in caches, which are collections of food in an inaccessible place to others.  When they are collecting large nuts and seeds for the winter, Steller’s Jays fit as many nuts as they can in their mouth and throat and hide them one at a time.  Steller’s Jays are opportunistic birds, who are will to take hand-outs from people, as well as steal the caches of other birds (AAB 2005).  An experiment ran in 1999 showed that Steller’s Jays preferred to eat from feeders farther from cover, mainly because it gave them more room to maneuver if facing a predator (Bekoff et al. 1999).  The experiment also revealed that the jays were aggressive toward smaller animals, like chipmunks, at the feeders, and tended to stay away from larger animals like squirrels (Bekoff et al. 1999).  These are some of the feeding habits the Steller’s Jays tend to exhibit.Steller's Jay Feeding

Interacting with other Organisms

Steller’s Jays have some special behaviors when it comes to deterring predators and interacting with each other.  Steller’s Jays are known to be social birds, and they can mimic sounds anywhere from cats and dogs to some mechanicals sounds.  When they are in flocks, they play by chasing each other around (AAB 2005).  They also exhibit agonistic behaviors, which is social behavior relating to fighting.  One of their forms of fighting is when two birds fly upward and lock feet together and start pecking each other.  To establish social status among the flock, they use crest displays (ADW 2001) and something called aggressive sidling, which is Steller's Jay Feedingwhen two jays size each other up to fight (Brown, 1963).  When the two birds are fighting, the one who opens up their wings is the inferior bird.  The opening of wings is seen as a sign of giving up to the dominant jay in the flock (ADW 2001).  Flocks of Steller’s Jays are territorial and defend it by mobbing, which is when a flock of jays flying aggressively toward a predatory bird (CAC 2013).  Steller’s Jays’ impact on humans can be both positive and negative.  They eat a lot of insects, like grasshoppers, which can help with pest control, but their scavenging at campgrounds can make them seem like a nuisance (ADW 2001).  These are some of the more noticeable behaviors displayed by the Steller’s Jay. 

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