The California scrub-jay is found in dry lowlands, wooded hillsides, and scrub oak forests of the far West, from southern British Columbia to Baja California, Mexico, and as far east as northwestern Nevada. A vocal bird, its loud shack-shack-shack-shack call reverberates as pairs of these raucous birds move about the scrub habitat for which they are named.
This species and its close cousin, the Woodhouse’s scrub-jay, until recently were considered one species, called the western scrub-jay. California scrub-jays are conspicuous and bold: They will beg at picnic tables, steal acorns from the granaries of acorn woodpeckers, and perch on the backs of mule deer to remove and eat the tasty ticks they find there.
In California and the Pacific Northwest, any backyard with scrub oaks, pinyons, or juniper trees may have a visit from a flock of California scrub-jays. In summer, their diet is largely insects, while the fall and winter diet shifts to fruits, seeds, and nuts. They will visit bird feeders for sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet or suet dough, and other offerings.
A reliable source of water is another good attractant. If your property includes scrubby habitat with good cover and a reliable food supply, you may entice a pair of California scrub-jays to nest.