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Western Scrub-Jay, John Gordon
Photo © John Gordon

Photo: John Gordon
Breeding evidence - Western Scrub-Jay
Breeding evidence

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Western Scrub-Jay
Aphelocoma californica

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 0 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
0 0 1 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range The Western Scrub-Jay is the familiar jay of drier woodland and open habitats of the "American West", from the Columbia River to the eastern Rocky Mountains, and south to the arid regions of Mexico. It is one of four scrub-jays in North America, and shows sufficient variation in structure, plumage and behaviour that splitting the Western Scrub-Jay into three species may be justified (Curry et al. 2002). During the latter part of the 20th Century a linear northward range expansion has occurred in Washington State (Wahl et al. 2005), from just north of the Columbia River to Puget Sound, perhaps related to increased residential development at low elevations (Smith et al. 1997). There has also been a distinct increase in the number of records in southern British Columbia, especially during non-breeding periods since 2000 in the lower Fraser Valley (Toochin 2014).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat There are four breeding season (April-August) records of the species for the Atlas period, of single birds in possible breeding habitat in the lower Fraser River valley: in Maple Ridge from 2009-2011, in the Campbell Valley (South Langley) in 2010, just west of Cultus Lake in 2011, and at Bridal Falls in 2012 (Toochin 2014). In 2013, just one year after Atlas fieldwork concluded, a pair bred in Maple Ridge, but the young were predated before they fledged the nest; in 2014, the same pair re-nested in a tall cedar hedge in suburban gardens and successfully fledged two young, the first breeding record for British Columbia and Canada (Gordon 2014, Toochin 2014).

In the southern part of its range the Western Scrub-Jay is a bird of drier landscapes, from arid scrub to open woodlands, but it has adapted well to suburban environments, the habitats where most birds are being recorded in southwestern British Columbia.

Conservation and Recommendations Birders should continue to monitor whether the northward expansion continues, by submitting data to programs like eBird.

Acknowledgements George Clulow kindly helped with reference and location checks.

Peter J.A. Davidson

Recommended citation: Davidson, P.J.A. 2015. Western Scrub-Jay in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Jun 2024]

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