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Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Aphelocoma woodhouseii

Length: 11.5 inches Wingspan: 15.5 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: Blue upperparts with grayish upper back, grayish underparts, white chin and eyebrow

Woodhouse's Scrub Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseiiThe Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay is similar in appearance to multiple other Scrub Jay species.  Until 2016, they were called the Western Scrub-Jay, along with what is now the California Scrub-Jay.    The two are generally similar in appearance and mannerisms, but the Woodhouse's is paler and is the one found in drier, interior habitats of the southwestern United States.  The Island Scrub-Jay and the Florida Scrub-Jay are two other very similar species that were once considered a single species along with the Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay. Woodhouse's Scrub Jays are a common sight and sound throughout much of the southwestern U.S., often seen conspicuously foraging in suburban landscapes, or heard when giving their variable harsh calls. 

Habitat: Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays can be found in a variety of shrubby and brushy habitats. but are often found in pinyon pine and juniper.

Diet: Omnivorous, feeding a wide variety of plant and animal matter.  Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays feed heavily on sects and spiders during the summer months, while the winter diet often consists of more plant material, including seeds, acorns, fruits, and berries.  They will also take small reptiles, amphibians, young birds, eggs, and small rodents when the opportunity arises.

Behavior: During the breeding season, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays normally are found as isolated breeding pairs, and will vigorously defend territories from other Scrub-Jays.  Outside of the breeding season, they are often found foraging in small family groups or small flocks. Mated pairs typically stay together throughout the year.

Nesting: Both the male and female help build a cup-shaped nest of sticks, plant material, and moss, usually relatively low in a tree or shrub.  The female incubates the eggs, with the male feeding her during incubation.  Both species will help feed and tend to the young.

Song: Utters a variety of rather harsh-sounding calls. Click here to listen to the calls of a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado (audio from Frank Lambert). Click here to listen to the calls of a family group, from Churchill County, Nevada (audio from Bobby Wilcox).

Migration: Considered permanent residents throughout their range, although there is some dispersal of birds in years of scarce food supplied in normal locations.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive ebird map of Woodhouse's Scrub Jay sightings

Feeders: Will sometimes attend feeders for nuts and seeds.  Can often be found in suburban areas, hunting for insects, as well as for fruits and berries in suburban landscaping.

Similar Species: Closely related and similar to Island Scrub-Jay, Florida Scrub-Jay, and California Scrub-Jay, all of which were once considered one species.  Also similar to Pinyon Jay and Mexican Jay.

Conservation Status: There are currently no perceived major threats to Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay populations, and the IUCN considers them a species of "Least Concern".  Populations may be expanding northward and eastern in the last few decades.

Further Information: 1) Audubon Guide - Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

2) SurfBirds - Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

3) WhatBird - Woodhouse's Scrub Jay

Photo Information: June 2018 - Western Colorado - Terry Sohl


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Woodhouse's Scrub Jay - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseiiWoodhouse's Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseiiWoodhouse's Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseiiWoodhouse's Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseiiWoodhouse's Scrub-Jay - Aphelocoma woodhouseii