Western Scrub-Jay

Scientific Name: Aphelocoma californica

Pictures: (click for larger images)

This is the best bird photo I've ever taken.  (At least it was until I got a new digital SLR camera.) It's Stubby the Scrubby! Stubby was a Scrub-Jay who was missing a foot.  S/he spent a good portion of 2004 and 2005 living in the UCLA Botanical garden and appeared to be getting by just fine with only one foot.  S/he hasn't been seen in 2006 so has either moved on or met her fate.  For this photo, I was sitting on one of the large rocks at the head of the stream in the garden, and s/he landed next to the water, hopping ever closer until s/he jumped onto the rock right next to me!  3/23/05

Here's Stubby in the garden again, with the footless leg sticking out behind.  I heard from another student that Stubby would fly by and eat food from your hand if you hold it out!  April 2005.
A Scrub-Jay perches near some picnic benches in the UCLA Botanical Garden.  3/9/05

Here's a Scrub-Jay in the garden as seen through the "bird scope" owned by UCLA Student & Birder Extraordinaire Bobby Walsh.  This was on a birdwatching walk Bobby led for the Environmental Bruins. 2/26/05

A Scrub-Jay helping himself to some free chow at a feeder near Hilgard & Le Conte.  10/11/02
Scrub-Jay Illustration.

-Photos by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.

Description: Medium-Large. 11"-13" in length (beak to tail), about the same size as a pigeon, but sleeker.  This is the only bird on campus that you'll that is blue.  But note that it is NOT a "Blue Bird" or a "Blue Jay."  Those are two completely different species.  At any rate, their bright blue plumage is distinctive.  Their wings, lower back, head, and the back of their neck are blue.  They have a dark gray patch on their upper back as well as a dark gray sort of mask around their eyes, with a little whtie stripe above it.  Their throat s white and their breast is light gray.  They have pretty big black beaks and black eyes.

Sound: A loud "jree?" especially heard when they're flying.  Listen to a Western Scrub-Jay calling!  Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.

Commonality/Seasonality: Common-to-uncommon (because there are not a great number of them), but present year-round.

Location: They stake out territory, so you'll usually only see a small number (e.g. two) in a given area.  They can be consistently found in the UCLA Botanical Garden, and in the Native Fragment. I used to see them near Rolfe Hall a few years ago (≈2001) when I got up to that part of campus regularly.  [Note: saw one in July 2006 at that big patio with the tables and vending machines next to Rolfe.] I've heard they can be seen around the Murphy Sculpture Garden on north campus.  The area around the Chancellor's house on north campus is also a likely location as there are a bunch of oak trees there that would provide acorns, which Scrub-Jays like.

Notes: Likes acorns.  Is relatively unafraid of humans, so you can sometimes get pretty close to it for a good look.

HistoricalDr. Loye Miller referred to it as the "California Jay."

The small number present on our arrival has been greatly increased by extension of the shrubbery, especially aong the Arroyo where it is to be found at all times now.

-Miller, Loye.  "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300.  Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins.  Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.



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