A Highly Divisive Bird
Species: Steller’s Jay, or Cyanocitta stelleri
Family: Corvidae (Corvids: Crows, Jays, Magpies)
Star sign: Leo
Rating: public opinion is mixed/10
Ideal Date: Going to the movies and yelling at the screen
The Steller’s Jay is a bird of controversy. A bird of conflict. A bird of drama, in more ways than one. To those who aren’t familiar, that might seem a little strange; surely, such beautiful birds should only engender feelings of admiration, awe, and appreciation for The Aesthetic… right? Look at that coat! That striking crest! To someone from east of the Mississippi, they seem like the Blue Jay’s cooler, goth cousin, with a gorgeous black head and sapphire-colored feathers which seem to shimmer in the light. You see a flash of that royal blue out of the corner of your eye and think to yourself: “what is there not to love about this friend!” And then the bastard opens its beak, and you are reminded why people consider this jay to be a nuisance.
If you haven’t seen a Steller’s Jay, you’ve definitely heard one. Their loud and scratchy scream is impossible to miss and even more impossible to ignore. The list of adjectives which accurately describes it includes (but is not limited to): harsh, unpleasant, grating, obnoxious, and physically painful. And it’s loud! But their most recognizable (and hated) call isn’t the only one that this flashy friend can make. Steller’s Jays can mimic the sounds of birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, and even some machinery. Naturally, they use this power for evil, mimicking birds of prey to scare away other wildlife from feeding areas. Since jays are corvids, their brains are big enough that when they cause problems, they’re almost certainly doing it on purpose.
But perhaps the brash, tawdry nature of these flamboyant friends is part of their charm, not something to be reviled but respected. These birds want your attention, and they don’t care how they get it; they’ve honed spotlight-hogging down to a science. There’s something admirable about that. The beautiful colors, the hideous call, the mischievous behavior — all of these reveal the essence of the one and only Steller’s Jay: a confident corvid with an ego the size of the planet Jupiter, who will not shut up about himself until you know exactly who he is. And honestly? We kind of love to see it.
If you want to see a Steller’s Jay for yourself, they aren’t hard to find: simply keep an ear out for the screams of the damned and go from there. Visually, the bird is slightly bigger than a robin, and its black crested head and blue body are unmistakable. In nature they stick to the tops of evergreens, and in the suburbs they draw closer to humans to scavenge for food, and wherever they are, they scream their hearts out at all hours of the day. Yet, despite everything, the Steller’s Jay is still one stellar jay.