Woodhouse’s jay

by Sue Hirshman
with Kent Nelson

Every turn out-of-doors becomes
  full of delight and surprises
     about birds.
   —Birds in the Bush

January turned out with bitter cold temperatures and lots of snow for Ouray County. The snow was welcomed as 2018 was so dry.
The birds were hard to find and to come by, but on one cold sunny day at Ridgway State Park a pair of western scrub jays (Woodhouse’s scrub jay) were found and were watching me. I stopped my car and the one jay just sat at the top of a pine tree and watched, not being afraid of me at all. I believe the bird thought I had some peanuts or other food that I was going to throw out. In the winter they survive on seeds and nuts of all kinds and berries, then switch over to insects and fruit in spring and summer.
I have read up until the 1990s we had a widespread bird in North America called the “scrub jay,” with several very distinct-looking populations. In 1995, a committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union formally split the bird into three species: Florida scrub jay, western scrub jay and island scrub jay. Then it was noted the western scrub jay included two distinct types. One was found throughout California and Baja, extending north to extreme southern Washington. The other bird lived in the interior, from Nevada and the eastern edge of California, east to Texas.
A study was done and published, looking at the DNA of...

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