Steller's Jay

Common Name: Steller's Jay
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Cyanocitta
Species: Cyanocitta stelleri

photo M. Noonan

Steller's Jay Taxonomy/Description

photo M. Noonan

Stellerís jay belongs to the family, Corvidae, in the Avian Order Passeriformes. Passeriformes is the order of perching birds. Corvidae is the jay, magpie and crow family. The Steller's jay's scientific name is Cyanocitta stelleri. The generic name, cyanocitta, means "blue jay". Its specific name, stelleri, named for George W. Steller (1709-1746). Steller was a German zoologist who explored the coastal areas of the northern Pacific Ocean in 1740.

This jay is characterized by its thick bill and feathery crest. Black feathers cover the head and crest, continuing about halfway down the back. The rest of the body is dark blue, with black ridges on the wing feathers. Juveniles have sooty gray coloration on their heads. Jays weigh 3-5 ounces, with a wingspan of about one foot.


Steller's Jay Habitat/Diet

The range of Stellerís jay begins far north in Alaska, stretching south along the Rocky Mountains to the southwestern United States and Central America. The Pacific coast marks the western limits of the range, while the eastern edge of the range extends no further than Colorado. Coniferous forests are preferred at elevations from 3,000-10,500ft. However, deciduous are inhabitable. Jays do not migrate to warmer regions during the winter, instead moving to lower elevations for seasonal cooling.

Seeds are the primary dietary component of Stellerís jay. Nuts and acorns are also favored. Like other corvid species, Stellerís jay feeds on the eggs of other birds.

Steller's Jay Behavior/Reproduction

Stellerís jays are social birds. Flocks form often. Aggressive behaviors towards other jays are not uncommon. Mobbing is a defensive maneuver of Stellerís jays to ward off predators. A large group of birds flies aggressively towards the predatory bird, protecting their territory and young by warding off the dangerous bird.

photo M. Noonan

This species is monogamous. Both birds will build the nest and care for the young. Females will incubate 2-6 eggs for 16 days. The young fly at 3 weeks of age. The lifespan of the Stellerís jay is about 10 years.

Steller's Jay Conservation

Stellerís jay is not endangered. It is numerous throughout its range. However, if care is not taken to preserve its habitat from human interference, Stellerís jay may one day face extinction.

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.