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Island Scrub Jay - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Charles Harper
Santa Cruz Island, California, September 2003

Alternative name: Santa Cruz Jay

Aphelocoma insularis


Length 33cm, wingspan 42-44 cm, weight 100-145 g. A medium-sized, crestless and long-tailed jay:

  • Broad head
  • Ultramarine-blue crown, nape, upperwing and tail
  • White chin, throat and upper breast
  • Blue collar below throat nearly complete
  • Black face with thin white supercilium
  • Dark brownish-grey upperparts with blue tinge
  • Greyish lower breast and below
  • Disprportionately large black bill
  • Brown iris

Sexes similar. Juveniles are brownish-grey, immatures have edged brown greater primary coverts.

Similar Species

Distinguished from the mainland California Scrub Jay by its larger size, darker and more conspicuous blue uppersides, blue undertail coverts and long, heavy bill. Forty percent heavier than California populations of California Scrub Jay, the closest relative in distance and ancestry. Voice is also distinctive.


Endemic to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, California. The population is still healthy but the small range is a potential risk.


This is a monotypic species.
Has been considered conspecific with Florida Scrub Jay, California Scrub Jay and Woodhouse's Scrub Jay in the past.


Open oak woodland.



Includes acorns of the Island Oak (Quercus tomentella); acorns are hidden for winter food. During spring and summer it takes mainly invertebrates and small vertebrates, birds eggs and nestlings.


Breeding season from May to June. Monogamous without helpers. The bulky nest is made of oak twigs and placed 2-3m above the ground in a bush or tree. Lays 2-5 eggs. Has a long incubation and nestling period.


Distinctive metallic call is deeper than in California Scrub Jay


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507
  3. Birdforum thread discussing the scrub jays

Recommended Citation

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