The Condor/1 (1)/Nesting of the Santa Cruz Jay

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The Condor, Volume 1, Issue 1  (1899) 
Nesting of the Santa Cruz Jay
By Rollo Beck

Nesting of the Santa Cruz Jay.


ON the 30th day of April, 1897, I was landed on the west end of Santa Cruz Island and for five days busied myself in collecting and caring for the few species of birds found within a few miles of camp. I had been hoping to find the Santa Cruz Jay nesting, but until the forenoon of the 8th of May not a bird had been seen. On that day, after a long walk up the bottom of a canon, the first Jay was seen perched on a dead willow stump a short distance ahead, and was at once laid away in my basket out of the hot sun. A 20 minutes’ search among the bushes and small trees nearby revealed a nest in the thick top of a scrubby oak, on the steep side hill and on a level with my eyes. A careful approach showed the female on the nest where she remained until my hand was but inches from her. She then flew to a tree forty yards off, from which she too was laid away with her mate.

The nest contained two eggs and was the counterpart of a California Jay's nest, being composed principally of oak twigs and lined with rootlets. The next day, after a long steep climb over rough hills, a second nest was found near the bottom of a rocky canon in a tangle of bushes. The birds were heard calling on the hill above the nest, which, after a short search, was located. It was similar in construction to the first and contained three eggs. A half mile farther down the canon another nest was found near the end of an oak limb, fifteen feet from the ground and contained two young birds. The location, material and size of this nest was very similar to that of the Blue-fronted Jay in Santa Clara County, Cal., so much so in fact, that I had to tear it slightly to make sure there was no mud in it. The birds were absent when I climbed out to it, and I thought it possible that the Blue-fronted might occur on the Island.

A few hundred yards farther a nest was seen in a willow tree near the stream, twelve feet up. The bird remained on until I nearly touched her, when she flew across the stream and called her mate, who came and silently watched me a short distance away. The silence of the Island Jays was very noticeable, and except for their habit of perching in conspicuous places, might have prevented their discovery. Judging from the four nests examined, two or three eggs would seem to be an average set. The eggs are somewhat larger than the average eggs of A. californica. Those obtained measure: (Set ½); 1.21x.85, 1.18x.84. (Set ⅓); 1.15x.90, 1.18x.90, 1.18x.92. (Set ⅔); 1.10x.86, 1.14x.88 1.16x86 inches. The markings are much lighter in color also, being light brown, grayish and lavender.

Berryessa, Cal., Dec. 24, 1898.