British Columbia Reference Page

Ani-Flag Canada   Ani Flag B.C. linked to gov't B.C.

Bird of British Columbia
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada

Steller's Jay Cyanocitta stelleri

British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment and Parks launched a three-month campaign to select a provincial bird in 1987. The campaign tied in with the province’s celebration of Wildlife ‘87, the centennial of wildlife conservation in Canada.

Seven well-qualified candidates were selected—the Varied Thrush, Trumpeter Swan, Steller’s Jay, Rufous Hummingbird, Peregrine Falcon, Harlequin Duck, and American Dipper. The jay won.

Official campaign literature described the Steller’s jay as “Lively, inquisitive, noisy and mischievous, the Steller's Jay has sooty black face, head and shoulders, and a striking grayish-blue back.” It also noted that the bird favors “the pine forests of the Stikine River, Hazelton, the Prince George area, the Queen Charlottes, and Vancouver Island.”

The blue jay is the provincial bird of Prince Edward Island. A more distant relative is the raven, which is the official bird of Canada’s Yukon Territory.

The Steller's Jay (Cyanacitta stelleri) became the Province's official Bird on December 17, 1987. Coloured a vibrant blue and black, it is found throughout the Province. This lively, smart and cheeky bird was voted most popular bird by the people of British Columbia.

The sight of a Steller's jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), named for ship's naturalist Georg Steller, confirmed Alaska as part of the New World during Vitus Bering's voyage in 1741. Steller identified this jay as the same species already known on the pacifi Coast farther south.

Characteristics: Medium-large bird of coniferous forests; blue body; blue-back head with conspicuous crest; heavy black bill. Loud, aggressive social species.


Common to abundant permanent resident of montane forests; restricted to areas supporting coniferous forests.

For you Easterners, this is the western counterpart of the Blue Jay. Although it is usually described in the guides as a bird of mountain, forest, and campground, at these more northerly latitudes it apparently extends right into the suburbs. After being a familiar sight in years past, they made only occasional appearances last year, but have returned in force this year and as of January 1998 sometimes five or six may be seen at a time. Much more prevalent here in winter than summer; it may have migrated from higher elevations.

Normal range: Pacific coast to Rocky Mountains

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order:Passeriformes
  • Suborder:Oscines
  • Family: Corvidae
  • Genus: Cyanocitta

  • Migration Status - Permanent resident
  • Breeding Habitat - Woodland
  • Nest Location - Mid-Story / Canopy Nesting
  • Nest Type - Open-cup
  • Clutch Size - 3 to 5
  • Incubation - 16 days
  • Fledge - ?
  • Number of Broods - 1
  • Diet - Nuts, Fruit, Seeds, and Lesser Quantities of Insects

    Identification Tips:

    The Egg

  • Description: Subelliptical to short subelliptical, smooth and glossy. Colour is blue to green with variable olive or brown markings.
  • Clutch Size: 4 eggs
  • Egg Size: 31 x 22 mm

    Similar species:

  • Pinyon jay of interior pinyon forests lacks crest, occurs in large flocks;
  • western scrub-jay of lower elevations in cismontane zone lacks crest, has gray front.

    Because of its large size, blue coloration and crest the Steller's Jay is quite distinctive. Steller's Jay has darker underparts than the similarly crested Blue Jay. Other jays lack a crest and have different markings.


    Gough, G. A., Sauer, J. R., Iliff, M. Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter 1998. Version 97.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.
    Author of id tips:
    Gregory Gough, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
    Length and wingspan from:
    Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., and Zim, H. (1983). Birds of North America New York: Golden Press
    Clutch size, fledging, brood, and incubation information from:
    Ehrlich, P., Dobkin, D., and Wheye, D. (1988). The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York. Simon and Schuster Inc.

    downloaded 990626 from:

    downloaded 990626 from:

    Natural History of Steller’s Jays

    A Steller’s jay is a blue bird with a black crest and tufts of feathers on top of the head. This is the only California jay with a crest.

    They are common in campgrounds and have been called "camp robbers" because of their habit of stealing food from picnic tables. Although noisy and conspicuous in campgrounds, they are quiet when near their nest sites. They are very secretive about hiding their nests.

    Their tracks, which are smaller than those of the raven, show three toes facing forward and one toe facing backward.

    They eat many things, including the young of other birds, fruit, berries, seeds, insects, and human food. Steller’s jays are bold and will grab food right off a picnic table if you turn your back.

    Steller’s jays can imitate the calls of the red-tailed hawk and the golden eagle.

    Jays will sit on fence posts or treetops to survey their surroundings. Because they spend much of their time in trees, the tracks you find on the ground will be paired.

    Kim A. Cabrera's Personal Notes on Steller’s Jays

    These birds are common around the campgrounds I work in. They will raid a picnic table quite boldly. I have had them land on the table and hop to within inches of me to grab a morsel of food that was dropped. I once saw two thrushes chasing a jay that had made off with one of their young. They apperently thought they could get it back. Sadly, that was not the case. So, the jay enjoys an occasional nestling in its diet.

    Got a jay story? E-mail me and tell me about it: Kim A. Cabrera




    Last Updated 990701