A reader e-introduced me to her friend Sherry Chadwell, who learned about the wildlife photos here and decided to send me some photos of a Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) nesting on Chadwell’s fence in southern Oregon. Here’s the story:
We have a Steller’s jay nest behind one of the shovels hanging on a back fence. I’m flabbergasted that the jays would build in an area of such regular activity. It’s right next to a gateway in the fence that people walk through several times a day. The setting jay was eyeball to eyeball to anyone stopping to look at her.
But she stuck it out and laid four beautiful turquoise eggs with brown speckles. Three of the eggs hatched, the fourth never did. The newly-hatched chicks looked so tiny and helpless but they have been quickly growing. I hope they fledge successfully and join the population of beautiful, big, raucous jays in the woods around our home.
Here is the nest on May 12:
The eggs, a lovely blue:
The rest of the sequence is quick: 13 days. Here are the three newly hatched chicks on June 5:
Three days later, with the first feathers:
Mom on the nest, June 8:
Chicks, June 10, begging from the photographer:
One day later, June 11:
June 14, with feathers coming in nicely:
And four days later, June 18, with the iridescent blue feathers starting to appear:
And some information, also from Wikipedia:
The nest is usually in a conifer but is sometimes built in a hollow in a tree. Similar in construction to the Blue Jay’s nest, it tends to be a bit larger (25 to 43 cm (9.8 to 16.9 in)), using a number of natural materials or scavenged trash, often mixed with mud. Between two and six eggs are laid during breeding season. The eggs are oval in shape with a somewhat glossy surface. The background colour of the egg shell tends to be pale variations of greenish-blue with brown- or olive-coloured speckles. The clutch is usually incubated entirely by the female for about 16 days.
Like other Jays, the Steller’s Jay has numerous and variable vocalizations. One common call is a harsh SHACK-Sheck-sheck-sheck-sheck-sheckseries; another skreeka! skreeka! call sounds almost exactly like an old-fashioned pump handle; yet another is a soft, breathy hoodle hoodle whistle. Its alarm call is a harsh, nasal wah. Some calls are sex-specific: females produce a rattling sound, while males make a high-pitched gleep gleep.
The Steller’s Jay also is a noted vocal mimic. It can mimic the vocalizations of many species of birds, other animals, and sounds of non-animal origin. It often will imitate the calls from birds of prey such as the Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Osprey, causing other birds to seek cover and flee feeding areas.
Finally, you can hear a selection of its calls here; don’t miss the third one, in which it imitates a Red-tailed Hawk.