Think of the Steller’s Jay as a relative of the Blue Jay, one that lives out west.

Both share the blue plumage, though the Steller’s Jay has a black head with a pronounced spiky crest. Both are known for their noisy, far-reaching calls and big personalities. Whether you’re a resident of the mountain west, or just passing through for a camping trip, the Steller’s Jay is a delight to hear and observe.

Around people, they’re less skittish compared to other songbirds, so if you live in or are traveling in their neighborhood — whether you’re deep in the pines, at home or at the campsite — you should have ample opportunity to experience their noisy antics. This is especially true if you’re having a picnic or cooking over a campfire, because you just might see one sitting nearby, waiting and seeing if you’re willing to share a sample. (Before you oblige, check the park or campsite rules. In some places, feeding wildlife is not allowed.)  

Much like Blue Jays, Steller’s Jays are known for mimicking sounds including those of other birds, cats, dogs, squirrels and even machines, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They can store extra nuts and peanuts in their throats, and unload them into one of their many food caches. Noisy and bold, a Steller’s Jay will be among the first go on the defensive to mob a predator.

When nesting, the site is chosen by both the male and female. Together they construct the nest from stems, grass and moss. Unlike other jays, they may also use mud.

The Steller’s Jay is a feeder visitor many backyard birders enjoy seeing. Opt for a platform or ground feeder filled with Lyric Supreme Mix — it has the high-quality peanuts, cracked corn, nuts and other goodies to help keep their bellies and their caches filled!

Steller's Jay chicks in nest. Thinkstock