The Island Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma insularis) is a medium-sized bird that is endemic to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of southern California. Adults typically measure 11.5 inches (29 cm) in length and weigh around 3.5 ounces (100 g). This species is slightly smaller than the western scrub-jay and has a relatively short tail compared to its body size.
The Island Scrub-Jay is a distinctive bird with a blue head, neck, and upper body, and grayish-brown wings and tail. Its forehead and lores (the regions between the eyes and bill) are white, and its eyes are dark brown. This species also has a black collar around its neck and a prominent blue crest on its head that it can raise and lower at will.
Unlike many bird species, the Island Scrub-Jay is a non-migratory species, meaning it does not undertake long-distance migrations. This bird is found exclusively on Santa Cruz Island, where it inhabits oak woodlands and chaparral habitats. It is the only species of jay found on the island and is believed to have evolved into a distinct species due to its isolation from other scrub-jay populations on the mainland.
The Island Scrub-Jay is a highly social bird, living in family groups that defend territories year-round. These groups may consist of up to ten birds, including breeding pairs and their offspring. The birds communicate with one another through a variety of vocalizations, including harsh scolding calls and soft, warbling songs.
This species is of conservation concern, with a small and declining population size. The main threats to the Island Scrub-Jay include habitat loss, predation by feral cats, and competition with non-native bird species. Conservation efforts are underway to protect the bird’s habitat and manage populations of feral cats and other invasive species on Santa Cruz Island.