Scrub-Jays are members of the crow family, and of the seven species of scrub-jay in the world, five of these can be found in the United States, and two species live only in Mexico. They are members of the New World Jay family, and those in the United States mainly live in the west, except the Florida Scrub-Jay.
Scrub-Jays are mainly blue on the back and lighter underneath. They also often have a gray band across their backs.
You can find detailed information, including pictures and the calls of scrub-jays below.
Difference between Scrub-Jay and Blue Jay
Scrub-Jays are larger than Blue-Jays and do not have the distinctive head crest that the Blue Jay has. They also have longer tails and shorter wings. They also often have different black markings than Blue Jays.
What do Scrub-Jays Eat?
Scrub-Jays favorite food is acorns and pine nuts. However, they are not fussy eaters and will happily take berries, grain, and fruit, and they will also prey on eggs and the young of other birds. Insects, frogs, and reptiles are also on the menu.
When Scrub-Jays have an abundance of food, they will cache it and come back another time to eat it. They have a great memory and can find their hidden stores with ease.
As Scrub-Jays are such opportunity feeders, and they can become a pest around trash and picnic sites. However, if you regularly feed them, they can become quite tame and will feed out of your hand.
Do Scrub-Jays Eat Other Birds
Scrub-Jays eat the young and eggs of other birds and would eat dead birds, but they do not tend to hunt other adult birds. Other birds will mob Scrub-Jays is they get too close to nests to try to scare them away.
Scrub-Jays can be found in woodland and in scrubby areas. They usually are found on the ground, where they walk quite upright and hop along the ground at quite a fast pace. They are also found in parks, towns, and backyards.
Scrub-Jays make fairly simple nests from twigs that are hidden in trees. They often form cooperative groups and share the feeding and rearing of the young. The young will also be fed for some time after they leave the nest.
Although scrub-jays are part of the songbird family, they do not sing much, and instead, they make harsh calls and can be quite noisy. You can listen to the calls of scrub-jays if you read on.
How to get rid of Scrub-Jays (and why you might want to)
Scrub-Jays can be noisy birds that can bully smaller birds at feeders. You can get rid of them in your backyard by using caged bird feeders that only let smaller species in, keep your yard tidy, use feeders with smaller perches, and tidy away any birdseed from under feeders.
Scrub-Jays in North America:
- California Scrub-Jay
- Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
- Florida Scrub-Jay
- Mexican Scrub-Jay
- Island Scrub-Jay
5 Scrub-Jay Species in the United States:
1. California Scrub-Jay
California Scrub-Jays are large songbirds with long tails, whitish undersides and rich blue and gray backs, and a bright blue breast band. They are larger than a robin but smaller than a crow. They look visually similar to the Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay but with more vivid colors.
- Aphelocoma californica
- Length: 11.0-11.8 in (28-30 cm)
- Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
- Wingspan: 15.3 in (39 cm)
California Scrub-Jays are resident all year on the Pacific Coast from British Columbia down to Baja California.
You can find California Scrub-Jay in scrub, oak woodlands, and in suburban yards and parks. They eat insects and fruit during spring and summer and then seeds and nuts, especially acorns, in fall and winter.
California Scrub-Jay sounds: Their call is high-pitched and repetitive. They also sing a courtship song of soft whistles.
Nests of California Scrub-Jay are usually hidden in oak trees and can take up to 10 days to construct the nest made of twigs and a soft lining. They lay 1 – 5 eggs, and the eggs take around 17 – 19 days to hatch.
Attract California Scrub-Jays to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts in your feeders.
Fun fact: California Scrub-Jay will screech over the body of a dead jay and invite others to do the same, and this can last up to half an hour, according to the University of California – Davis
2. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are the Blue-Jays of the Southwest with lovely blue and gray coloring. They are light blue and dark gray on the back and light gray underneath. Their tails are long and blue.
They are duller in color than California Scrub-Jays and have only a small necklace, and lack the crests of Blue Jays and Stellar’s Jays.
- Aphelocoma woodhouseii
- Length: 11.0-11.8 in (28-30 cm)
- Weight: 2.5-3.5 oz (70-100 g)
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are resident inland in southwest US states and Mexico. You can find them in wooded areas with pinyon-juniper and scrubby areas.
Insects and fruit make up most of the diet of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays in summer and nuts and seeds in winter.
Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay sounds:
Nests of Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay are fairly simple platforms made of twigs and lined with moss and grass.
Attract Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Fun Fact: Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays are thieves that steal food from other birds stores, especially Acorn Woodpeckers’ granary tree store of acorns.
3. Florida Scrub-Jay
Florida Scrub-Jays are blue, with gray bellies, backs, and foreheads. They have long blue tails and do not have a crest on their heads. Males and females look the same, but juveniles are grayer and have gray heads.
- Aphelocoma coerulescens
- Length: 9.1-11.0 in (23-28 cm)
- Weight: 2.3-3.3 oz (66-92 g)
- Wingspan: 13.0-14.2 in (33-36 cm)
As the name would suggest, Florida Scrub-Jays are found in Florida, and they do not migrate. They are endemic to Florida, meaning they are only native here.
You can find Florida Scrub-Jays in relatively open scrubby areas that are sandy and contain oak scrub. They will be found on the ground looking for insects and berries, and they also eat acorns. They are, however, listed as vulnerable on the ICUN Red List.
Florida Scrub-Jay sounds: They make quite harsh calls and spend a lot of time calling to each other.
Nests of Florida Scrub-Jays are usually in oak trees or shrubs, and they form cooperative flocks, which include young from the previous year. These flocks help protect from predators and feed their young. The offspring then find a territory of their own.
Fun fact: Florida Scrub-Jays break acorns apart by holding them in their feet and using their bills to hammer on the acorn until it breaks open.
4. Mexican Scrub-Jay
Mexican Jays are medium-sized, pale, bluish-gray birds. It is a lighter color compared to other jays and with a grayish upper neckline and chest. Its bill is small and black.
- Aphelocoma wollweberi
- Length: 11.4 in (29 cm)
- Weight: 4.2-4.8 oz (120-135 g)
You can find Mexican Jays in open oak and pine woods and forests.
Mexican Jays eat mostly insects, small reptiles, and other birds’ eggs and young. In the winter, they mainly eat acorns and pine nuts which they stored during the previous season.
Mexican Scrub-Jay sounds:
Nests of Mexican Jays are built by both males and females in trees and protected by thick leaves. The nests are built of sticks and twigs with a lining of rootlets and plants.
They lay around five eggs that take about eighteen days to hatch. The young leave the nest after about twenty-five days, but they may be cared for by the flock for several weeks.
Fun Fact: Northern Flickers usually follow Mexican Jays in flight during migration because they use the loud, shrill voices of the Mexican Jay to warn themselves of any predators.
5. Island Scrub Jay
Island Scrub-Jays are large, brightly-colored birds similar to California Scrub-Jays except that their feathers are darker and more richly-colored. They are blue from their head to their tail on the back and gray on top of their wings. They have white throats.
- Aphelocoma insularis
- Length: 11 – 12 in (28 – 33 cm)
- Weight: 4.1 – 4.4 oz (116 – 125 g)
Island Scrub-Jays are permanent residents of Santa Cruz Island, hence their name, and they do not migrate. The island is dominated by oak woodland and chaparral with several streamside thickets and other trees.
The diet of Island Scrub-Jays is mostly insects, small lizards, mice, and even the eggs and young of other smaller birds. In the fall, it feasts on acorns, using its beak to break the shell.
Island Scrub-Jay sounds:
Nest of Island Scrub-Jays are hidden in oak trees. It is sturdy and built with twigs and lined with rootlets and animal hair to keep it soft on the inside. They lay around four eggs, and they take about eighteen days to hatch. As to when the young leave the nest, there’s not a lot of data to go from.
Fun Fact: Since the Island Scrub-Jay never leaves Santa Cruz Island, it has the smallest range of any North American bird.