Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Western Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica)


French: Geai buissonnier German: Kalifornienhäher Spanish: Chara californiana

Garrulus californicus


, 1839,

Monterey = Monterey County, California, USA


Hybridizes with A. coerulescens in captivity and perhaps with Cyanocitta stelleri in the wild. Race insularis commonly treated as separate species (as in HBW), but differs weakly both morphologically and genetically#R. Other subspecies fall into three weakly defined groups, “californica group”, “woodhouseii group”, and “sumichrasti group”; these posited to represent three distinct species#R#R#R, but plumage characters variable and no obvious differences in voice. Race cana may be merely a hybrid between nominate and obscura; immanis, caurina and oocleptica sometimes included in nominate. Proposed race cactophila (C Baja California, in NW Mexico) synonymized with hypoleuca; birds from SC USA and NC Mexico described as suttoni, but inseparable from nevadae. Fifteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • A. c. immanis Grinnell, 1901 – NW USA (W Washington, coastal and interior Oregon).
  • A. c. caurina Pitelka, 1951 – from coastal S Oregon S to California (Napa and Sonoma Counties, and E to inner Coast Ranges).
  • A. c. oocleptica Swarth, 1918 – SC Oregon S to interior C California (including Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and adjacent Coast Ranges S to San Francisco Peninsula), Sierra Nevada foothills and E to W Nevada.
  • A. c. californica (Vigors, 1839) – California Scrub-jay – Coast Range of C California (from San Mateo County and SE Alameda County S to SW Ventura County).
  • A. c. obscura Anthony, 1889 – SW California (highlands of Mojave Desert) and extreme NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • A. c. cana Pitelka, 1951 – Eagle Mt, in Joshua Tree National Park (SE California).
  • A. c. hypoleuca Ridgway, 1887 – C & S Baja California.
  • A. c. insularis Henshaw, 1886 – Island Scrub-jay – Santa Cruz I (SW California), in SW USA.
  • A. c. nevadae Pitelka, 1945 – interior SW USA (throughout Great Basin, mountains in Death Valley and Mojave Desert, and SW New Mexico) S to N Mexico (NE Sonora and NW Chihuahua).
  • A. c. woodhouseii (S. F. Baird, 1858) – Woodhouse's Scrub-jay – foothills of Rocky Mts from Utah and S Wyoming S to N Arizona and Colorado, E to W Oklahoma and Texas (including Big Bend), and N Mexico (N Chihuahua).
  • A. c. texana Ridgway, 1902 – Edwards Plateau (WC Texas).
  • A. c. grisea Nelson, 1899 – NW Mexico (Sierra Madre Occidental, mostly in Chihuahua).
  • A. c. cyanotis Ridgway, 1887 – E Mexico (lower Sierra Madre Oriental).
  • A. c. sumichrasti (Ridgway, 1874) – Oaxaca Scrub-jay – S Mexico (Distrito Federal E to Veracruz, Oaxaca and Isthmus of Tehuantepec).
  • A. c. remota Griscom, 1934 – SW Oaxaca and C Guerrero, in S Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    28–30 cm; 70–100 g. Small, crestless jay with long tail, plumage blue, grey and white; bill varies from stout, short and hooked (where populations rely on acorns... read more


    Large repertoire of at least 15 call notes, begging, and soft song. Courting and solitary... read more


    Mixed oak (Quercus), pine (Pinus) and juniper (Juniperus) woodlands,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous, but seasonal specialist on pine and oak crops throughout most of range. Takes fruits, seeds, invertebrates, small vertebrates... read more


    Nest-site selection and start of nest-building in late Feb to early Mar in N California, and laying from late Mar to early Apr; repeated... read more


    Resident throughout range. Pairs may wander to harvest nuts and other food bonanzas; floaters may... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout range; rare in Eagle Mts of California, where race cana listed as a California species of special concern... read more

    Recommended citation

    Marzluff, J. (2020). Western Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma californica). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).