scrub jays

Robert Sundstrom ixoreus at
Mon Jan 19 19:26:23 PST 2004

J. Bonham and tweeters,

It sounds like the snow really pushed the Western Scrub-Jays to your feeders. All birds that feed on the ground much of the time or even part of the time - like Varied Thrushes, for example - are challenged by snow cover to find new temporary food sources. Western Scrub-Jays are a regular part of the scene around Tenino and locally in other parts of lowland southwest and south central Washington. As many reports to Tweeters attest, this species has begun to extend its breeding range northward at least to the Seattle area. Although scrub-jays are common around Tenino now, two decades ago they apparently were rare here.

Scrub-Jays visit my feeding stations throughout the day all year long where I live along Scatter Creek east of Tenino, and other birds coming to the feeders - including up to eight Steller's Jays sometimes - back out of the way a bit when a scrub-jay glides in. This species has become a regular at the suet feeder and brings its amazingly noisy fledglings in to feed in early summer.

I hope this helps answer some of your questions about the new customers at your feeders.


Bob Sundstrom
ixoreus at
Tenino, WA

----- Original Message -----
From: J Bonham
To: tweeters
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 1:45 PM
Subject: scrub jays

About the 2nd of January I noticed a very large, unusual bird looking at my peanuts and blue jay feeder.

It was just after the cold front moved in and the temperatures dropped rapidly, bringing us over 10" of snow and ice.

As I, my daughter, and a friend on home from leave from Baghdad in the 101st Airborne division watched, he made himself (?) at home for about 10 minutes, then flew off. As he flew off, We all noticed that he was a blue jay, although he made my local blue jays look like pygmies. He was definitely a scrub jay, with no crest, a partial neck collar from the left side of its head, a gray stomach area, but instead of the regular blue of my neighborhood jays, this one was extremely brilliant, and without binoculars it was impossible for me to see the shoulder patch.

About 1/2 to an hour later he returned with another scrub jay, equal in length, equal in its extreme brilliance, although this one was thin and "stream-lined," like the scrub jays in our area. They both flew off together and within an hour my tree line beside my house was filled with at least, to be very conservative, 10 to 15 scrub jays. All of them were much larger by far than my "little" 12" neighborhood jays that have been here for over 10 years. About 1/3 of these new jays were extremely thick-bodied, or "robust" as my husband termed them. As they got smaller in size, the extreme brilliance diminished and they showed the gray shoulder patches. All of them had white throats, gray stomachs, and neck bands in various patterns.

I put this onto the Tweeter's site, asking for help in identifying them, but all I got was that they were Stellar's (which their brilliant blue indicated, but no crests).

As far as I can tell, they must have come down from the Mt. Rainier area during the storm.

The flock seems to have split up, and some of the smaller ones are still here in this area. After they began to migrate back to the mountains, I assume, I saw the extremely large, thin one come back at daybreak for several days. Yesterday I saw the extremely large, thick-bodied jay return.

What was really unusual about them was that they showed no territorialism, they were extremely quiet, and they would feed together peacefully. For about 11 days I got a very close and personal viewing of these unusual birds. They got so trusting that they would just fly to the tree line, about 50 feet away from my patio doors, and wait for me to refill their feeder.

On the last day here, they were feeding on the last of the peanuts about 3' from my patio doors. I went to the doors, opened them, and walked outside. There were at least four on the ground in front of my door, where I had been throwing peanuts every hour or so, about three or four feeding peacefully in the 18" square feeder we had put on the hull of the boat due to the snow, one sitting on the side of the boat, one on the mast, and numerous others in the tree line. I had a very close, front row seat, so to speak, so I KNOW what I was seeing.

From the time when I saw them until two days before the flock departed, they would approach and depart the tree line beside my house from the east. Two days before they departed, they began to approach and depart from the west, toward the Mt. Rainier area.

It is now very obvious that the flock has broken up, and some of the "smaller" of this flock have decided to stay here in the area. It is also obvious that the two larger leaders (?) of the flock are still looking for them.

I have looked all over to find anything that would explain my "mutants", as my daughter calls them, but nothing I can find helps me at all.

Their behavior, their size, the difference between the thick-bodied, robust ones, and the fact that they would peacefully and harmoniously with my little chickadees and nuthatches has me totally baffled. The only time I saw any aggressive behavior was on their last day here as an entire flock when, I assume, one of the local jays returned. All at once, three or four of the new flock turned on one little, and I do at this point mean little, and chased him away from the feeder. This was not the behavior I had been seeing for the last 10 or 11 days.

No, I do not have any pictures. I only wish! I am fairly observant, spend alot of time in bed due to disabilities, and have spent all last summer and up until the snow enjoying the querulous, territorial, very noisy scrub jays of the neighborhood. The feeder was originally right against my bedroom window, and I got to know the personalities and different approaches of the various scrub jays that devoured my peanuts daily!

These new jays were so quiet, so polite, and ate as much in an hour as my normal flock would in a couple of days!

As of now, at least, these birds are still returning every morning and every afternoon. They come in just at daybreak, but the times are getting later each day. They come back every afternoon again.

Could anyone tell me what is the approximate flying time of a scrub jay in an hour?

Obviously, these "new" scrub jays are in an area where they are at least familiar with people and cars. They came to the middle of Centralia when the snow hit and allowed us to walk slowly up to the patio doors when we originally approached without being scared and flying off immediately. They would watch me refill the feeder while only retreating to our treeline, about 30 feet from the boat. Also, unlike my neighborhood jays, they would eat sunflower seeds, corn, and empty the feeder of the expensive jay mix that the neighborhood jays refused to eat.

If anyone out there actually believes me and is really interested in scrub jays, I really do have a very strange, large, quiet, non-aggressive "new" (?) type of scrub jay around here, or in the Mr. Rainier area, at least. Noone really seems to either believe me or to be interested. As I have seen them, fed them, and observed them for the better part of two weeks as an entire flock and am now observing what seems to be a split flock and the efforts of the leaders to reunite the flock, I really do know what I am talking about. Somewhere, probably around the Mt. Rainer area, this flock lives in a peaceful harmony within their own flock as well as with the other birds. I would really like someone to take this seriously.

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