The Steller’s Jay is known for its unique, striking blue coloration and distinctive black crest. This sets it apart from other members of the Jay family, and makes it easy to identify; just compare it to a Canada Jay in the picture to the right. But while common in British Columbia, it’s kind of rare in K-Country. It is most reliably seen in the Kananaskis Lakes area, especially in the Rawson Lake trail area.
Steller’s Jays have a highly social nature. These birds are known for forming large flocks, especially during the winter months when food is scarce. They communicate with each other using a variety of calls and vocalizations, and are often seen hopping from branch to branch in search of food.
They eat everything
Steller’s Jays are omnivores. They have a varied diet that includes both plant and animal matter. Steller’s feed on a wide range of foods such as insects, nuts, seeds, berries, and small animals such as rodents and reptiles. They will even eat water bugs.
Like all Corvids, the Steller’s Jay is also an incredibly intelligent bird. It has been observed using tools to extract insects from tree bark, and is known for caching food for later use. During the summer months, they primarily feed on insects and other invertebrates. In the fall, they switch to a diet that is more heavily focused on nuts and seeds. As noted, these birds are known for their ability to cache food. They will hide or store excess food collected in summer to eat later. In the winter, they must rely on these food caches.
Despite their intelligence and social behavior, the Steller’s Jay can also be quite bold and aggressive. They have been known to steal food from other birds – and people (watch your lunch!). They will sometimes even attack larger animals if they feel threatened. This behaviour has earned them a reputation as being a bit of a troublemaker.
The breeding and nesting season for Steller’s Jays typically begins in late April to early May and lasts until July or early August in K-Country. During this time, the birds form monogamous pairs and build nests in trees, usually between 3 to 60 feet above the ground. The nests are built using twigs, bark strips, and grass, and are often lined with soft materials such as moss and animal hair.
A female Steller’s Jay will lay 2-5 eggs per clutch, with the average clutch size being 4 eggs. The eggs are typically blue-green with brown spotting and are incubated by the female for approximately 16-18 days. Once hatched, the chicks are fed by both parents and will fledge from the nest around 17-21 days after hatching.
It’s important to note that during the breeding and nesting season, it’s best to observe Steller’s Jays from a safe distance to avoid disturbing their nesting and feeding behavior. Interference can cause stress to the birds and may even cause them to abandon their nests.
Meet more of the cool birds of K-Country here!