Posted by: atowhee | July 7, 2016


Here’s the explanatory note from my friend, Jeff Tufts, who runs the Rogue Valley Audubon website: “As expected, the AOU has officially split the Western Scrub-Jay into two species:  California Scrub-Jay (that’s our bird) and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay.  You’ll have to head south and west if you need to add the Woodhouse bird to your lifelist.

“So, what was once just one species–Scrub Jay–is now four:  Florida, Island, California and Woodhouse’s.   Enough already !!
“Actually, the recent decision to split Western Scrub-Jay is a return to some much older nomenclature.  The 1886 AOU checklist included Florida Jay, California Jay and Woodhouse’s Jay.  Santa Cruz Jay appeared in the 1895 checklist, and all four were also on the 1910 checklist.  Woodhouse’s Jay was dropped from the list that came out in 1931, and when the next full checklist was published in 1957, there was only Scrub Jay.   Florida Scrub-Jay and Island Scrub-Jay re-appeared in the 1998 checklist along with Western Scrub-Jay.
“So, where did I come up with all of these choice little tidbits of classification-and-nomenclature trivia ?
The Woodhouse is the interior form, California is coastal.  I am searching now for relevant range maps.


“Regional Differences

Birds along the Pacific Coast are sharply marked, with a bold blue necklace against white underparts and a distinct brown back. Great Basin birds (called “Woodhouse’s” scrub-jay and sometimes considered to be a different species) are grayer overall, the necklace is less contrasting, and the back patch is grayish blue.”

So the jays here in Willamette Valley and Rogue Valley and along the California Coast are “California Scrub-Jays.”


This is from Joel Geier, posted on the OBOL email list: “As others have commented, most of the scrub-jays around towns and ranchsteads in southern Lake County certainly appear to be of the (former) subspecies californica, which I guess we’ll now (again) be calling California Scrub-Jays.

This includes birds that I’ve seen around downtown Adel, south of there at ranches along Twentymile Road to the southern edge of the Warner Valley , north to Plush, east along the Hwy 140 grade up Greaser Canyon, and also around the Lakeview area.

In past years I’ve seen a few scrub-jays, generally in more xeric situations away from human habitation in the tri-state (CA-NV-OR) area, that appeared to have minimal “necklaces” and overall a more grayish cast. Those locations include (1) north of Cow Head Lake (north of Fort Bidwell) in extreme NW California, (2) near the junction of Big Valley x Long Valley Rd in Oregon SW of Adel, (3) WNW of Adel in a dry gulch off of Deep Creek canyon, and (4) in the Little Sheldon area on the west side of Sheldon NWR in Nevada. All of these birds were also more wary and more difficult to get good looks at than the usual California Scrub-Jays. All were in the type of habitat where you can also find Juniper Titmouse.

My notes on most if not all of those sightings should be in The ones near Cow Head Lake *might* have been juvenile scrub-jays, the others appeared to be adults.

My hunch for many years now is that the ranges of californica and woodhouseii are intercalated in the tri-state area, with californica more numerous but mainly sticking to more riparian situations, while woodhouseii uses the more upland, xeric habitat, which usually takes more effort to access. Now that these taxons have been elevated to full species status, hopefully that will provide more incentive for more people to search in the latter type of areas. Similar to Juniper Titmouse, I suspect that once birders put in more focused effort, we’ll learn that Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays aren’t really as rare in southern Lake County as the paucity of reports to date might suggest.

Happy birding,


This is the title of a great natural gardening book, but it is also a headline for the story about Island Scrub-Jays replanting the oak chaparral formerly destroyed by ranching on the jay’s only island, Santa Cuz, off the Ventura County coast.

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