I can’t say I’m really into birds. I’m certainly not a birder. But after two seasons on the mountain, I have a deep appreciation for some of the feathered creatures I’ve encountered there.
Previously, I wrote about the pileated woodpecker I saw in the parking lot near the trail. (Read about the woodpecker here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/06/12/pileated-woodpecker/.) The pileated woodpecker was beautiful, and I am grateful to have seen it and shared a habitat with it.
The other bird species I enjoy on the mountain is the Steller’s jay. The first time I saw one, I wondered if I’d been dosed. I’d seen blue jays before, but this bird was iridescent, psychedelic, WOW! This blue jay was a brilliant blue unlike anything I’d seen before.
I wondered if something the bird ate way up in the mountains gave its feather that deepness of blue. (I knew flamingos are pink because of their diet, so I thought maybe blue jays in the mountains ate something special to maintain that vibrant blue.)
In time, I saw more of the jays of the vivid blue and learned they are called Steller’s jays.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steller’s_jay, the bird’s scientific name is Cyanocitta stelleri.
The All About Birds website (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Stellers_Jay/id) says,
A large, dark jay of evergreen forests in the mountainous West. Steller’s Jays are common in forest wildernesses but are also fixtures of campgrounds, parklands, and backyards..When patrolling the woods, Steller’s Jays stick to the high canopy, but you’ll hear their harsh, scolding calls if they’re nearby. Graceful and almost lazy in flight, they fly with long swoops on their broad, rounded wings.
Steller’s Jays are large songbirds with large heads, chunky bodies, rounded wings, and a long, full tail. The bill is long, straight, and powerful, with a slight hook. Steller’s Jays have a prominent triangular crest that often stands nearly straight up from their head.
At a distance, Steller’s Jays are very dark jays, lacking the white underparts of most other species. The head is charcoal black and the body is all blue (lightest, almost sparkling, on the wings). White markings above the eye are fairly inconspicuous.
Look for Steller’s Jays in evergreen forests of western North America, at elevations of 3,000-10,000 feet (lower along the Pacific coast).
Apparently, Steller’s jays vary in appearance depending on where they live. The aforementioned All About Birds website says,
Scientists have described 16 subspecies of the Steller’s Jay in North and Central America, showing varying combinations of black and blue on the crest, head, and body. The Queen Charlotte Islands off British Columbia are home to the largest and darkest race. In mainland North America, you can notice differences between darker Pacific forms, with blue streaks over the eye, and lighter Rocky Mountain forms with white streaks and a partial white eyering.
For a while, three Steller’s jays made their home in the trees of the parking lot. While waiting for cars to arrive, I’d sit in my chair and listen to birds chatter and fuss. I didn’t see them often, but their voices made their presence known. I thought of them as the Three Amigos, and I was always pleased to know they were in the area.
I think all jays are beautiful, but the jays of the lowlands literally pale next to the Steller’s jays of the mountains. I guess it’s obvious with which species my heart lies.