Look for a California Scrub-Jay on the West Coast

Updated: Jan. 06, 2023

The raucous call of the bright blue California scrub-jay reflects its mischievous behavior. This western species loves to eat peanuts.

What Does a California Scrub-Jay Look Like?

california scrub-jayCourtesy Ellen Rayl
A California scrub-jay is a blue and gray bird with no head crest

The California scrub-jay, formerly known as the western scrub-jay, is a member of the corvid family. Western scrub-jays were split into two species—Woodhouse’s and California—in 2016. Both males and females are bright blue with a white belly and gray patch on the back. Unlike blue jays, they do not have a head crest. These birds measure 11 1/2 inches long with a wingspan of 15 1/2 inches.

Steller’s jays are clever black and blue birds.

California Scrub-Jay Nest and Eggs

Western Scrub Jay gathering coconut fiber from planter for nest buildingBarbara Rich/Getty Images
California scrub-jay gathering nest material

After the pair builds a bulky nest of twigs in a low tree or shrub, the female lays three to six green or gray spotted eggs.

Canada jays are curious, cold-hardy birds.

California Scrub-Jay Call

17 Brianbailey Bbxmar18Courtesy Brian Bailey
Acorn woodpecker and a scrub-jay

These birds make a hoarse rising call of “shreeeenk” or a rapid series “quay-quay-quay” or “cheek-cheek-cheek.” They make scolding cries and sing sweet, quiet, musical songs when with their mate, as most jay species do.

Listen to their song:

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Don’t miss beautiful blue jay photos you need to see.

What Does a California Scrub-Jay Eat?

scrub jayCourtesy Mark Haywood
California scrub-jays will visit bird feeders for sunflower seeds and peanuts.

These birds eat nuts, fruits, insects and small animals. Attract them to your backyard with peanuts, peanut butter, suet, sunflower seeds and cracked corn.

“The California scrub-jays were vocal on the morning that I took this photo (above). A jay with an acorn in its beak settled briefly on an outer branch of a coast live oak. I had only a few moments to capture it flying away to its next spot,” says Sandeep Dhar of San Diego, California.

What foods do blue jays eat?

Range Map and Habitat

california scrub jayCourtesy Sandeep Dhar
Western scrub-jays were split into two species—Woodhouse’s and California—in 2016.

Look for these birds in oak woods, pinyon-juniper woods, parks, shrubby areas and backyards. The species is primarily found in coastal regions of the west. The birds replace the blue jay in many western backyards. A close relative, the island scrub-jay, lives only on California’s Santa Cruz Island. Find out why the blue jay range is expanding westward.

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, learn how to tell the difference between bluebirds and blue jays.