Steller's Jay

Steller's Jay

Long-crested jay, Mountain jay, Pine jay

Cyanocitta stelleri
Population size
2.8 Mlnlnn
Life Span
16 years
g oz 
cm inch 

Steller's jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) is a bird native to North America and the mountains of Central America. It is closely related to the Blue jay found in eastern North America.


The Steller's jay has a blackish-brown, black, or dark blue head, depending on the latitude, with lighter streaks on the forehead. This dark coloring gives way from the shoulders and lower breast to silvery blue. The primaries and tail are a rich blue with darker barring. Birds in the eastern part of its range along the Great Divide have white markings on the head, especially over the eyes; birds further west have light blue markers, and birds in the far west along the Pacific Coast have small, very faint, or no white or light markings at all.




Steller's jays are found in western North America as far east as the eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains from southern Alaska in the north to northern Nicaragua. They are also found in Mexico, south-central Guatemala, northern El Salvador, and Honduras. Steller's jays do not migrate and prefer to live in coniferous forests; however, they can also be found in pine-oak woodlands and are common in agricultural areas with nearby forests.

Steller's Jay habitat map
Steller's Jay habitat map
Steller's Jay
Attribution-ShareAlike License

Habits and Lifestyle

Steller's jays are highly social and often form flocks of various sizes. They travel in groups, play with each other, or chase each other while flying in the air. These birds forage during the day. They gather food both from the ground and from trees. They often cache seeds in the ground or in trees for later consumption. Steller's jays frequently scavenge picnics and camp sites. They will visit feeders where they prefer black-oil sunflower seeds, white-striped sunflower seeds, and cracked corn, and are especially attracted to whole raw peanuts. Steller's jays have numerous and variable vocalizations. One common call is a harsh 'SHACK-Sheck-sheck-sheck-sheck-sheck' series; another 'skreeka! skreeka!' call sounds almost exactly like an old-fashioned pump handle; yet another is a soft, breathy 'hoodle hoodle' whistle. Their alarm call is a harsh, nasal wah. Females sometimes produce a rattling sound, while males make a high-pitched 'gleep gleep'.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Steller's jays are omnivores; their diet includes a wide range of seeds, nuts, berries, and other fruit. They also eat many types of invertebrates, small rodents, eggs, and nestlings such as those of the marbled murrelet. They have even been known to eat small reptiles, like snakes, and lizards.

Mating Habits

late March-early July, peak in April-May
16 days
6.5 weeks
2-6 eggs

Steller's jays are monogamous and form long-lasting pair bonds. They breed from late March to early July, with a peak in April and May. The pair usually locates its nest in a conifer but sometimes it can be built in a hollow in a tree. The nest is constructed of natural materials or scavenged trash, often mixed with mud. The female lays between 2 and 6 eggs which are oval in shape with a somewhat glossy surface. The background color of the eggshell tends to be pale variations of greenish-blue with brown- or olive-colored speckles. The clutch is usually incubated entirely by the female for about 16 days. The male feeds the female during this time. The chicks hatch naked and with closed eyes. They begin to fly 18 days after but parents continue to feed them for one month more.


Population threats

The Steller’s jay doesn’t face any major threats at present.

Population number

According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of the Steller’s jay is around 2.8 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Steller's jay is the only crested jay west of the Rocky Mountains.
  • The Steller's jay is sometimes colloquially called a "blue jay" in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Steller's jays are usually loud both day and night, however, during the nesting period they are quiet in order to not attract attention.
  • Steller's jays can imitate the vocalizations of many species of birds, other animals, and even sounds of non-animal origin. They often will imitate the calls of red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, and osprey, causing other birds to seek cover and flee feeding areas.

Coloring Pages


1. Steller's Jay on Wikipedia -
2. Steller's Jay on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About