Steller's Jay

Cyanocitta stelleri


Demography and Populations

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Measures of Breeding Activity

Age At First Breeding

Few data. Age of first breeding poorly known, but likely 2-3 yr. Brown (Brown 1964b) reported that only 1 of 9 birds banded as juveniles near Berkeley, CA, showed any breeding activity during its first year.


No information on geographic or age-related variation. See Breeding: Eggs.

Annual And Lifetime Reproductive Success

Limited information available about annual or lifetime reproductive success among Steller's jays across their range. In n. California, Gabriel and Black (Gabriel and Black 2012a, Gabriel and Black 2012b) found that, over a 3 yr period, 51-59% of pairs successfully fledged young. Older, more experienced individuals demonstrated slightly better annual reproductive performance than younger birds. In some years, pairs in which individuals were behaviorally compatible in terms of exploratory or risk-taking tendencies tended to have greater reproductive success. Across all three years, however, pairs with fewer explorative and risk-averse males produced more young (Gabriel and Black 2012aGabriel and Black 2012b).

In Washington State, Steller's Jay nesting success is higher in forested landscapes (64% of pairs fledged an average of 2.9 fledglings) than in nearby suburban landscapes, where only 11% of nests were successful (Vigallon and Marzluff 2005a).

Number Of Broods Normally Reared Per Season

One brood per season, but will sometimes renest if first attempt fails (Goodwin 1976b).

Proportion Of Total Females That Rear At Least One Brood To Nest-Leaving Or Independence

No information.

Disease and Body Parasites


At least 9 of 27 adults admitted to a veterinary hospital in central Vancouver I., British Columbia, during the fall of 1992 died of a fungal infection of the respiratory tract caused by Aspergillus fumitgatus (Machin 1993).

Body Parasites

Parasite Brueelia clayae reported for adults in Berkeley, CA; San Antonio, TX; and Trinity Valley, British Columbia (Williams 1986). Brueelia deficiens reported on adults from California (Williams 1986). Susceptible to knemidokoptic mange, caused by parasite infestation (Zirpoli et al. 2013). Several species of quill mites are known from Steller's Jays, including Syringophiloidus spp. (Bochkov et al. 2009) and Torotrogla cyanocitta (Bochkov et al. 2009).

Causes of Mortality


No information.


See Behavior: predation, above. Killed by domestic cats (Williams 1986). Gopher snakes (Pituophis catenifer) observed eating young (Bent 1946a).

Competition With Other Species

No information.


Initial Dispersal From Natal Site

Young remain with parents for about 1 mo after fledging, sometimes into fall or winter. In coastal CA, juveniles disperse from natal site from mid-Sep through early Oct; dispersing bird does not return to natal site, but settles within 10–15 km of place of birth (Brown 1964b, Morrison and Yoder-Williams 1984). No information from other locations.

Fidelity To Breeding Site And Winter Home Range

Few data. Near Berkeley, CA, in eucalyptus groves, individuals are resident; pair remains on territory throughout the year, and over many years (Brown Brown 1963a, Brown 1964b). No comparable information for other geographic areas or habitat types; no information on ranging patterns or site fidelity for high-elevation populations that move to lower elevations during winter.

Dispersal From Breeding Site

No information.

Home Range

Little information. On the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, jays have a fairly small home range of 5 – 429 ha, depending on landscape characteristics. Near Berkeley, CA, a pair's area of dominance is about 120 m wide, but birds will wander into the dominance areas of adjacent birds (Brown 1963a, Brown 1964b).

Population Status

Figure 7. Relative abundance of Steller's Jay during the breeding season.

Based on data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, 1966-2013. See Sauer et al. (2014) for details.


Figure 7 Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) estimates of relative abundance (number of birds/39.2-km census route) is 4.3 for all survey routes with detections in U.S. and Canada (n = 619 routes, 1966–2011 census periods; Sauer et al. 2012). Throughout the census areas, however, relative abundance varies considerably: Low of about 0.1 bird/route in Wyoming; high of 46.4 birds/route in the Sierra Nevadas.

For other BBS survey areas, average relative abundances on routes with positive detections during the 1966–2011 census period are: 12.1 birds/route for the Northern Pacific Rainforest region (n = 147); 1.2 for the Great Basin region (n = 106); 0.9 for the Northern Rockies (n = 118); 2.5 for the Southern Rockies (n = 124); 4.2 in the Coastal California region (n = 53); 6.0 for the Sierra Madre Occidental region (n = 23); 1.1 in the Chihuahuan Desert (n = 4); 4.8 in Arizona (n = 23); 1.5 birds/route for British Columbia routes (n = 91); 17.1 for California (n = 144); 2.8 in Colorado (n = 73); 0.7 for Idaho (n = 28); 0.5 for Montana (n = 16); 2.2 for New Mexico (n = 25); 8.1 for Oregon (n = 96); 1.0 for Utah (n = 30); 3.9 for Washington (n = 69). No information on abundance in central Mexico.

Figure 8. Regional trends in Steller's Jay populations.

Based on data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey, 1968-2013 (Sauer et al. 2014). Data show estimates of annual population change over the range of the survey; areas of increase are shown in blue and declines are shown in red. See Sauer et al. (2014) for details.


Figure 8 Data from all BBS survey routes with this species during 1966–2011 suggest that populations have been stable during this period; no overall systematic population trends (Sauer et al. 2012). Significant population changes (p < 0.05) have been seen in some survey regions: 1.3% average annual increase in Washington (n = 69); 2.1% increase in Idaho (n = 28); 3.2% decrease in Montana (n = 16); 1.8% decrease in Utah (n = 30).

Population Regulation

Little information. Little known about longevity, dispersal, survivorship, sources of mortality, diseases, reproductive success, and basic population dynamics. Periodic irruptions characteristic of the species may follow years of good breeding success and/or poor food supply. Research on basic demographic characteristics of this species is needed.

Recommended Citation

Walker, L. E., P. Pyle, M. A. Patten, E. Greene, W. Davison, and V. R. Muehter (2016). Steller's Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.