• Stellar’s jay means cool weather in Autumn

    by  • November 30, 2011 • Fall, Wildlife

    At Sierra Foothill Garden, we love birds! In our albums we have collected, there are many photos of the ones in our backyards, from humble sparrows to brilliant bluebirds.  And what better time than Autumn and Winter for watching them?

    It’s a sign

    Cool weather is here.  Steller’s jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, with its black head and upper body is one of only two species in the genus Cyanocitta, the other species being the Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata, found throughout the Central and Eastern United States. We only see these stunning birds when it’s cooler here in the foothills of Central California.

    Our Western scrub jays, one is below, Aphelocoma californica, are much different with their crestless heads and grey underbodies.  Their home is our oak woodlands and also chaparral near the Western coast as well as suburban backyards all over the Western United States.

    Western Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma californica

    Steller’s Jays were discovered on an Alaskan island in 1741 by Georg Steller, a naturalist on a Russian explorer’s ship.  Forty years later they were named after him along with his other discoveries including the Steller’s sea lion and Steller’s Sea-Eagle.

    Their range is from British Columbia in North America to Nicaragua in Central America and they are usually found in higher altitude pine forests. In autumn, flocks of Steller’s jays often visit oak woodlands like ours when acorns are ripe.

    Here near Yosemite, they live close to the campgrounds there and know that there are bird feeders there and picnic crumbs.  Here at 3000 ft in the foothills, we only see them in the fall as the Black oaks turn gold or when it is very cold or snowy in the high country. Plenty of acorns this year.

    Watch for them,…they’ll mean it’s getting cooler!


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.