Steller’s (not stellar) Jays

During our trip through various national parks, we came across a lot of wildlife. We love birds (we see so many in our backyard) and our favorite has to be the Steller’s Jay. Their colors are so powerful, and they make really funny and weird sounds.

The only western North American jay with a crest decorating its head, the Steller’s Jay is the darkest jay in North America. It turns up in the western U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Most notably, it turns up in the Rocky Mountains, one of our favorite national parks and one we visited on our trip.

The Steller’s Jay generally has a black or dark blue head with bright to silvery blue wings, tail, and stomach. It has a shaggy crest, sort of like a mohawk. It may have light blue streaking on the forehead. They are small to medium sized birds, with a size of about 11 inches and a wingspan of 17 inches. They are amazing, brightly colored birds.
They are sociable birds that can mimic various calls and sounds made by red-tailed hawks, chickens, squirrels (what? Why squirrels?), and cats amongst many other things. The Steller’s Jay’s song is a weird buzzy chirping. The birdcall is a scolding chip-chip-chip-chip-chip. However, their most common call may keep some people in their area awake. It’s actually really annoying. It made a warbling, chirping sound when we saw it.

Within their range, they like living in coniferous forests, pure ones especially, with some clear space. However, they will live in neighborhoods with a forest nearby, maybe yours.
They make nests made of twigs, mud and moss. Their newly hatched chicks are pink with a faint navy blue fuzz. You can tell fledglings from hatchlings by seeing wether or not there are wing feathers- the tail feathers don’t mean much.

Our sighting: We saw one perched on an aspen or birch stump on the Mills Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. It looked at us with wide shiny eyes, and cocked it’s head like What? Who are you and what are you doing here? This is my tree. Go get your own. In our excitement, the photos were a bit blurry but clear enough to share.

P.S.: If you live in the range of the Steller’s Jay, you can attract some to your backyard by putting out peanuts, suet, fruits, or black oil sunflower seeds. If you out a couple feeders far apart, the medium sized families can all eat, and also, they love nesting in pine trees. And about pictures: good luck getting these guys to hold still. These blurry shots were the best we could get!

Citation: About- Birding
Rocky Mountain National Park


Rocky Mountain National Park at Dusk!
Rocky Mountain National Park at Dusk!



66 Comments Add yours

  1. Good stuff, as usual 🙂

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says:

    I love these guys. I see them and HEAR them every day. Very funny and smart. It was interesting the first time I heard them imitate a red-tailed hawk. I was looking for a hawk, and then saw the jay, and we laughed together, the jay and I. They used their crest feathers to communicate….like my dog does with her ears.
    I remember the eastern blue jay as having a crest. I grew up with them in Maryland. Miss them. They are beautiful – light blue, white and some black.
    Thanks for the Stellar’s jay this morning.

  3. So glad it brought wonderful memories! Thank you so much for all the added information!

  4. Thank you so much! It was so much fun to see & hear them. They are beautiful.

  5. Those birds are something! Funny how they can mimick sounds. Yeah…squirrels too! Why! Though I hardly ever hear the sounds squirrels make. We see them around, probably drowned by the sound of traffic! How lovely to be able to venture out to nature like you have. I need to move!!!

  6. Such a lovely comment. There is always a park near you where you can loose yourself. In the states the is a Find Your Park movement that hopefully will inspire more people to visit them. Sadly many other problems follow the increase in traffic.

  7. Hargun Wahi says:

    Birds are always difficult to capture.. Just the moment you are about to hit the click button, voila-The bird’s flown away 😉
    I have had many pics when I captured them right into the frame but the next moment they went invisible from the final picture !
    And the post is informative and fun to read as always.
    Keep enjoying your visits 🙂

  8. Ohhh! So nice to hear from you as always. Birds are so free and brilliant. That is why they capture everyones imagination.

  9. Autism Mom says:

    I had no idea Stellar’s Jays could mimic red tail hawks! I hear what I thought was a hawk right outside my window twice a couple of weeks ago, but all I could see were the jays eating our new grapes. 🙂 Now I know, thank you!

  10. Glad we learned something together. They are uniquely beautiful!

  11. We have Steller’s here in WA. Ours have distinct black hoods and deep blue bodies and wings. There is no white or silver on them that I’ve noticed; but then again, I haven’t captured a photo of one yet. Now you’ve got me interested in their call. I’m not a birder, and as such only recognize a few birds by their call. Where I live, I can recognize eagle call, chickadees, and crows. There are other calls I hear regularly, but can’t identify. Thanks for the interesting information and the wonderful photos. (I just went to Youtube to listen to a Steller’s Jay’s call, and I now recognize it).

  12. Thank you so much for the info & wonderful comment on the Steller’s Jay information on the northwest coast. We’ll have to listen to them on youtube. What a great idea.

  13. Beautiful images. And that opening quote was bone chilling!

  14. jabrush1213 says:

    Birds have always interested me from the beginning. They are all different, yet act the same at the same time time.

  15. That is a great way of thinking about them.

  16. Yes, the quote is very insightful. It was so much fun photographing all the amazing places we visited and the wildlife we saw. Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Hoping to seeing more of your beautiful images from this adventure!

  18. Aquileana says:

    It is the first time I heard of Steller’s Jay!… Such a beautiful bird!…
    Lovely post! … Thanks so much for sharing! All my best wishes. Aquileana 😀

  19. We see the Steller’s Jay in Yosemite and in the Sierras. sometimes we see them here in Sacramento. So colorful!

  20. Oh! You are so lucky. We would love to go back to The Sierras. Yosemite is a favorite National park. Thank you for stopping by.

  21. Thank you so much for stopping by. They are quite beautiful in a scruffy sort of way.

  22. I have never seen this bird before, thank you for introducing the species 🙂 I always learn something new when visiting your blog 🙂

  23. Thank you! We feel the same with your blog. All those beautiful photos with bright colors!

  24. Comedians one and all are Stellar’s Jay.
    Wonderful post.

  25. Thank you for your kinds words! Yes they are comedians…lol.

  26. The first time I can remember seeing these guys was out in the California redwoods – I have loved them ever since and always get excited to be west enough to see them!

  27. Lisa says:

    These are such strikingly handsome birds! We have Blue Jays, but they aren’t as colorful as these appear to be. One thing is for sure….it IS an amazing world!

  28. Yes it is an amazing world!

  29. They are gruff beautiful birds. These were out in Colorado.

  30. I loved meeting these winged beings through your post! It would be great to see them in their natural habitat! We also have the Northeastern Blue Jay here. I love watching birds, as well! I am not familiar with all which are in the vicinity. Some I recognize and see all year around. Now to learn the song of each, and try to remember which is which.

  31. The Northeastern Blue Jay has a reputation for being aggressive, but they are just so beautiful. The girls were just amused by our reaction. We saw them while on a strenuous hike and were just pleasantly surprise. They are much more beautiful live than in photo and they do not just sit around…lol.

  32. Oh, my gosh, yes, the Northeastern blue jay is quite the aggressive bird. Just ask my poor kitty (this was from about 30 decades ago) who was unlucky enough to be stalking the wild things cats stalk, in the vicinity where the Jays had their nests, and their young were just learning to take that leap out of the comfort of their home 🙂

  33. Yayy! I now know about jay! I really like the quote of trees and cages. Very informative post. Nature has so many things to say. Like the way they turn from pink to bright bluish! chip-chip-chip-chip-chip.

  34. Robin says:

    What a cool bird! I’ve never seen one. Would love to. So beautiful 😊

  35. Feisty entertaining little things! Thanks for stopping by.

  36. Canewielder says:

    I’ve spent many hours being entertained by these amazing birds at Madera Canyon south of Tucson AZ. Nice post and I really like your blog.

  37. Thank you so much. The girls will be excited to hear. We would love to go back to the South west soon. It is like a different planet.

  38. pseudonymous says:

    They shit purple which splatters like watercolor thru a tent screen- I wasn’t even mad.

  39. Always beauty and learning here.

  40. kim says:

    What a beautiful bird. The eurasian Jay we have here is not so colourful and is rather shy, so difficult to catch on camera – for me anyway. I like the quote too, and cannot bear to see birds in cages 🙁

  41. The quote is pretty powerful. Steller Jays are rather small but sing beautifully. Nice see you here.

  42. annascuisine says:

    Wow! What a beautiful bird! We have bird feeders in our backyard. We saw different birds, but not this one. Love the quote. It’s so true. Great post.

  43. Thanks for commenting. Steller Jays are truly beautiful.

  44. annascuisine says:

    My pleasure. Thank you as well for sharing such interesting post.

  45. annascuisine says:

    My pleasure. Thanks as well for sharing such interesting post.

  46. badfish says:

    You are very lucky to have gotten to Colorado. Those Steller’s Jays are simply outrageous, and so big and so healthy! And bold. You did a stellar job here!

  47. Oh thank you so much. Awesome comment. They definitely were fun.

  48. You’re right– I had the name all wrong!! But loved the photos and all the tidbits of information. We see them when we head up to the mountains in Big Bear CA. Fun post!

  49. Big Bear is a place we would love to visit someday. love the photos of the area and glad to hear that Steller Jays are found there! Thanks for stopping by.

  50. New Journey says:

    I lived in the Olympic National Park at Kalaloch for may years as a young child, one of my favorite things to do in the winter was sit out quietly on the side road next to our house and feed the birds….I had about 20 birds, including a couple pheasants, but my most loyal fans were the blue jays….I had them so they would come up and eat off my knees as I sat cross legged…I was never able to touch them, we called them camp robbers as that’s what they did in the campground, robbed anything and everything off camp tables….LOL they hid there food all over our yard, squeezing it between anything that had a crack in it…they are so colorful….I also had a raven as a pet….what a loud, demanding bird…LOL he lived wild but would come in the house, land on the counter, the fridge was his favorite perch and scream until we feed him…then he would either settle in for awhile or fly back out in the tree right in front of our home…he was in retrospect the most obnoxious bird I have ever been around…but what a character…my mom and dad put up with a lot…LOL love your post…thanks for sharing

  51. This is an amazing comment which you should actually post on your blog. What a wonderful childhood experience. In looking into the NPS website they described Olympic National Park at Kalaloch as having “Large nesting colonies of birds like common murres and tufted puffins need these rocky outposts.” The photos of the area are spectacular.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful comment.

  52. New Journey says:

    it was and still is a magical place to me…

  53. We just went through a few NParks and we were just amazed at the beauty this country has to offer. It had to have been magical!

  54. New Journey says:

    My husband and I have been trying to get through all the NP in the USA….my favorite state so far is Utah…On my what beautiful parks they are….they have 5 NP in there state!!!

  55. We were in Utah and will be sharing our beautiful experience in their beautiful parks.

  56. New Journey says:

    I was moved deeply by some of what I saw there….especially at The Arches…we were able to visit that park as the sun was rising…you can feel the energy coming off those tall red rocks….I can’t wait to go back…

  57. It was absolutely beautiful there and delicate arch was our favorite. Just stunning.

  58. New Journey says:

    There were 3 very tall men looking red rocks about a mile in after the top of the hills…they were on the left hand side…I named them the prophets…they were my favorite, they were before Wall Street area..across from the government tower area….we were in the area for several days, went up to Canyonland and enjoyed the views and spent the night up there, but went up to the Arches 4 times before I could leave….LOL

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