Black and blue bird by a pool
Steller's jays are identified by their prominent black crests.

NPS Robb Hannawacker


Scientific name

  • Steller's jay: Cyanocitta stelleri
  • Pinyon jay: Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
  • Western scrub jay: Aphelocoma californica


  • Steller's jays have dark blue bodies, with black heads and necks, and a prominent black crest on top of their head.
  • Pinyon jays are uniformly grey-blue, with a dark beak and no crest.
  • Western scrub jays have a mix of colors.Their heads, wings, and tails are vibrant blue, their backs are grey, and their bellies and throats are light grey to white.They have a prominent dark spot around the eye, and no crest.
  • All three species of jay are found throughout the southwest United States.
  • Steller's jays prefer the thicker, larger trees of the ponderosa pine and spruce forests found on the North Rim. Pinyon jays and western scrub jays can be found on the South Rim as well as inside the Grand Canyon.


  • All three jay species are omnivores.Most of their diet is plant matter, including pinyon pine seeds, berries, and other nuts.During the summer, all 3 species feed heavily on insects, lizards, and the eggs of other birds.
  • All three species will steal unattended food and table scraps from humans. Please store food carefully to keep these crafty animals from feeding on unhealthy and unnatural human food.
  • Scrub jay and pinyon jay nests are baskets of twigs lined with grass, hair, and plant fibers. Steller's jay nests are made of twigs, moss, bark, and leaves held together with mud.
  • Jays average 3-5 eggs per clutch, and the juveniles begin to fly at about 3 weeks of age.

Last updated: April 28, 2016

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PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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