Breakfast with a Jay

Steller’s Jays are almost as common as crows in my yard. I don’t complain about their raucous rants because I think they’re such a handsome blue-black bird and because I like their attitude. They scold me loudly when I walk out the back door if they happen to be nearby. They’re found all along the Western Coast, from lower Alaska down to California.

Stellers Jay, British Columbia

Stellers Jay, British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several years ago as I sat at my kitchen window eating breakfast one spring morning, a Jay landed in the gravel driveway outside my window, just beyond the blueberry bushes. He deposited two little pellets, and then, as I watched, a few more. He flew off and I didn’t think too much about it until a few minutes later when he landed in the same spot and deposited a few more.

He had my attention. I went outside to check after he flew off. The “pellets” weren’t hard to spot–he had a neat little pile of 16 bright yellow corn kernals! When I went back into the house, he flew back down and picked up one or two kernels from his treasure trove and flew to a nearby branch. Was this his breakfast time, too?

Corn kernels? My best guess was that he found them in a neighbor’s chicken pen five houses away. I had to leave, but when I checked a few hours later, not a kernel remained. I read later that they often cache seeds and nuts in the ground or in trees for eating later.

English: Steller sea lion on rocks

English: Steller sea lion on rocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steller’s Jays were first described by a European on an Alaskan island in 1741–Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian exploring ship. Captain Cook later used Steller’s journals during his exploring expeditions. Of the six species of mammals and birds Steller identified and named, two are extinct (including the Steller’s sea cow) and three are endangered or in decline (including the Steller’s sea lion). The Steller’s Jays are doing just fine.

A juvenile Western Scrub-jay in Santa Cruz, Ca...

A juvenile Western Scrub-jay in Santa Cruz, California, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re just back from a trip to the San Francisco Bay area where we watched our Jay’s relative–the Western Scrub Jay, also a handsome bird. Compared to our Steller’s Jay, it’s a little more trim and has a longer tail, plus it lacks the pronounced crest of the Steller’s Jay.