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A photo of a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii)
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

Aphelocoma woodhouseii

The Woodhouse's scrub jay, a medium-sized bird, is adorned with a blue head, wings, and tail, contrasting with its gray-brown back and grayish underparts. A distinctive feature is the partial blue breast band, often referred to as a "necklace," set against a whitish throat. This species measures approximately 27–31 cm in length, including its tail, spans a wingspan of 39 cm, and weighs around 80 grams. Its plumage is somewhat less vibrant than its relative, the California scrub jay, and it possesses a straighter bill.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Woodhouse's scrub jay, look for its duller blue coloration and darker gray underparts compared to the California scrub jay. The blue necklace is less distinct, and the bill is straighter, lacking the hooked tip seen in some other jay species.

Habitat

The Woodhouse's scrub jay is found in a variety of habitats, including pinon-juniper forests, oak woods, edges of mixed evergreen forests, and occasionally mesquite bosques. It thrives in areas of low scrub and is a common sight west of the southern Rocky Mountains.

Distribution

This nonmigratory bird ranges from southeastern Oregon and southern Idaho down to central Mexico. It is also a familiar visitor in urban areas, where it often displays a remarkable tameness.

Behaviour

Woodhouse's scrub jays are known for their intelligence and complex social behaviors. They forage in pairs or small groups and exhibit food storing habits, caching surplus food across their territories. These birds are also known to engage in deceptive practices to protect their caches from theft by other jays.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the Woodhouse's scrub jay are described as harsh and scratchy, a characteristic sound in their natural habitats.

Breeding

The breeding season sees the construction of sturdy nests, primarily by the female, with the male standing guard. Nests are built low in trees or bushes, and the species lays four to six eggs, which vary in coloration. The female incubates the eggs for about 16 days, and the young fledge approximately 18 days post-hatching.

Similar Species

The California scrub jay is the species most similar to Woodhouse's scrub jay, with the main differences being in the intensity of the blue plumage and the prominence of the blue breast band.

Diet and Feeding

Woodhouse's scrub jays have a varied diet that includes small animals, bird eggs and young, insects, and plant matter such as grains, nuts, and berries. They are opportunistic feeders and have been observed engaging in interesting interactions with other species, such as removing ectoparasites from deer.

Conservation status

Currently, the Woodhouse's scrub jay is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, although populations are being affected by the West Nile virus.

Phylogeny

The Woodhouse's scrub jay was once lumped together with several other species as a single "scrub jay" species. However, it is now recognized as distinct, with several subspecies identified across its range, including the interior Mexican population known as Sumichrast's scrub jay.

Woodhouse's Scrub Jay Sounds

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A photo of a California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica)

California Scrub Jay

Aphelocoma californica
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