Inviting the Steller’s Jay to Your Garden

How to attract BC's provincial bird to your garden.

Easily identified and common all along the Pacific Coast, the Steller’s Jay will add colour and personality to your yard.

Voted most popular bird in a provincial contest, the Steller’s Jay became BC’s official bird on December 17, 1987. They can be very entertaining and many people enjoy watching their antics.

Steller’s Jays are residential birds so you can see the same Jays returning each year to visit your yard. They won’t say no to an easy meal and can often be found visiting campgrounds and public parks so watch your picnic basket.

How to attract the Steller’s Jay to your garden

Planting bushes and trees that provide shelter as well as food sources like berries and nuts will attract all types of birds to your yard. Or, simply line your porch railing with unshelled, unsalted peanuts and wait—kids also love watching the Jays try to take as many peanuts as they can carry.

The Steller’s Jay enjoys a variety of food including seeds, mealworms, fruits, and peanuts. Choose a platform feeder (not a hanging feeder) with an easy-access tray. If you don’t have room for a large feeder, any flat surface will do. Leave out whole, unshelled peanuts and unsalted sunflower seeds—these are the Steller’s Jays favourite foods.

How to prevent Steller’s Jay bullies

If you find they are bullying or scaring other birds, try placing a second feeding station specifically for the Jays away from the first. Steller’s Jays will also sift through commercial birdseed to get their favourite treats so avoid buying mixes with sunflower seeds.

Keep hearing knocking at the door but no one is there? Steller’s Jays sometimes use roofs and gutters to break open seeds and nuts. To discourage them, simply stop putting out their favourite foods. They’ll quickly find another yard to visit.

Birds that help the garden grow

Some gardeners find the Steller’s Jay helpful in the yard, as they love to eat bugs and insects such as earwigs, caterpillars, tomato hornworms, and even snails and slugs.

The Steller’s Jay stores food in various caches for when food is scarce during the winter. Jays, crows, ravens and magpies have excellent memories and can recall thousands of locations of stored nuts and seeds.

Researchers have found that certain species of trees—mainly oaks and pine in Canada—benefit from being spread by Jays. Any seeds, nuts or acorns that aren’t retrieved by the birds have the potential to sprout and grow.

Steller’s Jay appearance

The Steller’s Jay is often mistakenly called a Blue Jay due to their deep blue plumage and crested, black head. Their wings and tail have a fine black barring against the vivid blue and a small blue or white streak on the forehead.

The Steller’s Jay is about the same size as the American Robin, however the females are slightly smaller. Juveniles are brown and gray in the head and neck and dull blue below.

Call of the Steller’s Jay

The Steller’s Jay has a very distinct loud, raspy squawk. Many people find their call to be irritating but they often use their shrill voice to warn other birds of predators or ward off more overbearing birds.

The Steller’s Jay also has an uncanny ability to imitate other birds’ calls, particularly the Red-Tailed Hawk. Some believe they use this skill to scare predators. Many bird watchers and gardeners have observed the Steller’s Jay mimicking squirrels, chickens, and even dogs, which can be very comical.

Originally published Januar 2011