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Did You Know Most Blue Jays Out West Don't Have Crests?

Pictures courtesy Linda Keese, TX, at www.antiqueroses.com.

We all know the loud and beautiful Eastern Blue Jay with his spiffy crest. Did you know out West they have a common Blue Jay without a crest?

The Jays (family Corvidae) have many cousins but only two are crested (the Eastern Blue Jay and the Stellar's Jay in the West). Out West, the Western Scrub Jay (a.k.a., Texas Jay, California Jay - genus aphelocoma) is known throughout the Southwest from Texas to California. It's a large jay (10"), without a crest and with no strong pattern on its wings or tail, but they are a beautiful bright blue, just a bit darker than the Eastern Blue Jay. Their back is brownish, and their underparts pale gray.

(The Scrub Jay has a distinctive bright white collar or necklace around the throat which distinguishes it from the Mexican Jay (a.k.a., Arizona Jay), also in Texas.)

Both Eastern Blue Jays and Western, or Scrub, like other members of the Family Corvidae are extremely intelligent. They relish acorns but are omnivorous. Their calls include raucous squawks, rasps, and the famous "Jay!Jay!, but the Scrub Jay is know as "The Whisperer".

A California friend reported sitting in her back patio and hearing a "very quiet song" from nearby greenery, "as variable as a mockingbird's, but much gentler." All she could see was an improbable jay. Weeks later a jay landed on a branch 8 feet away. It squawked, then began its quiet little song, almost as though it were singing to itself. It ended with a squawky flourish. "I'd seen the beak move!" It was the famous "Whisper Song" of the Western Blue Jay. Eastern Blue Jays "bell" and are quiet near their nests, but the Scrub Jay's song is sweet and startling.

Scrub Jays will also come to feeders and are said to tame easily. Happily for many of us, they are year-round residents.

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