Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Woodhouse’s scrub-jay.
Formerly lumped in with a Pacific coastal race as the western scrub-jay, this week’s bird has now been differentiated as its own interior species. A member of the corvidae family, this bird is an intelligent and opportunistic mainstay of lowland Gambel’s oak and ponderosa woodlands and pinyon-juniper forests.
These birds can be differentiated from two other local jay cousins by paying attention to specific field markings, behaviors and habitat types. Woodhouse’s scrub-jays have a long bluish tail, blue wings, a blue head, but their scapulars (shoulders), breast and flank feathers are gray-white. Also, they have a sooty smudge below their eye and on occasion, one can make out a faint white eyebrow (supercilium). White streaking/spotting on the neck is often framed by a blue necklace. Their flights are undulating, as they work in and out of tree stands. They have a longer bill, capable of extracting pine nuts when ripe, but spend spring/summer months subsisting on insects and early-ripening fruits (i.e., serviceberry). Their relatively sparse calls are comprised of a short series of raspy shree notes.
They can be differentiated from the ponderosa pine master of harassment and mimic, the Steller’s jay, as they lack the definitive black crest and vertical tree canopy movements. Also, their flights lack the straight, rapid wing-beat of the slender pinyon jay, which sticks preferentially to pinyon-juniper forests. Woodhouse’s scrub-jays are fond of nuts and seeds in the fall/winter months.
Feederwatch.org is a great resource for ideas if you’re curious and wish to explore these birds up close.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on March 3, 2019.