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The Chronicle

Beak of the Week: Identifying Washington's 'blue' jays


I’ve heard people call Steller’s jays, The Chronicle’s Oct. 2 Beak of the Week, “blue jays” more often than I’ve heard them called their actual name.

That isn’t technically wrong. They are blue and they are jays.

But, as fans of a certain Canadian baseball team will attest to, a “blue jay” has a white face, a blue feather tuft on its head and white markings throughout its feathers.

The Steller’s jay, which is much more common in Washington, has a black tuft and black and blue feathers.

Also common in the area are scrub jays, which have a rounder head and are mostly blue with grayish bellies.

In any case, these birds are all unreasonably annoying. Their calls are piercingly loud and repetitive. They get into trash and anything else.

Steller’s jays are quite handsome, still. Up close, they have an iridescent sheen of navy and deep black scattered between bright blue feathers.

If you want to see one in Lewis County, just head toward that shrieking bird you hear all the time.

Oh, and, to make matters more confusing, when skiing at White Pass or checking out other high altitude spots in the state, those gray birds often called “camp robbers” are gray jays. Their real name? Canada jays. Not to be confused with the aforementioned Toronto-based baseball team.

In any case, if you call any of the blue birds in the jay family a “blue jay,” you’re probably not correct, but I will try not to be a jerk about it.

Learn more about the Steller’s jay at .

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