Scrub Jay Nesting (Behavior, Eggs + FAQs)

Scrub Jay Nesting (Behavior, Eggs + FAQs)

Scrub Jays are a member of the corvid family native to the pinyon-juniper woodlands and scrub habitats of the western United States. They are easily recognizable with their beautiful pale blue plumage that fades to gray on their flanks and underbellies.

Nesting season for the scrub jay typically begins in March or early April, depending on how far north the bird resides. These jays primarily nest in pinyon-juniper forests and scrub oak habitats.

However, nests may occur in various other trees and shrubs as long as the location offers plenty of concealment from predators and the elements.

Mid-summer marks the end of nesting season for the jay. Although, you will still see them foraging throughout their territory, perhaps even with their young nearby. Pairs are socially monogamous and remain together much of the year. In addition, juveniles stick with their parents for another two months after fledging.

We will continue discussing the nesting habits of scrubs jays throughout the article. Read on to discover more!

Nesting Scrub Jay gathering materials to build their nest

Nesting Scrub Jay gathering materials to build their nest

Nest Location

Where do Scrub Jays nest?

Scrub jays nest in dry, open western woodland and scrub habitats. They are primarily associated with pinyon, juniper, and scrub oak forests but also occur in riparian woodlands, gardens, orchards, and the tropical deciduous forests of southern Mexico.

Nests are built in the fork or terminal of a branch or tree trunk, where vegetation conceals the location.

Do Scrub Jays nest in the same place every year?

Few reports exist on whether or not scrub jays typically return to the same nest site every year. However, pairs are socially monogamous and are known to return to the same breeding territory.

It would not be unlikely for these jays to reuse a previous nest site, particularly if that nest was successful.

Do Scrub Jays nest in backyards?

Scrub jays may nest in backyards if small, densely vegetated shrubs or trees are present. These birds are also drawn to birdfeeders, especially where peanuts and sunflower seeds are present.

Scrub jays nest in dry, open western woodland and scrub habitats

Scrub jays nest in dry, open western woodland and scrub habitats

Do Scrub Jays use nest boxes?

Scrub jays prefer nesting in trees or shrubs. However, if optimal nesting habitat is scarce, they may utilize a nest box. The ideal box size for this bird is about 8-by-8-by-12 inches with a 1 ½ inch entrance hole. The nest box should be placed somewhere well concealed by vegetation.

What trees do Scrub Jays nest in?

The most common trees to find scrub jay nests in are juniper, pinyon, and scrub oak. However, depending on location, these birds may also utilize a variety of shrubs, including Wright’s silktassel, serviceberry, mountain mahogany, or sagebrush. Occasionally, nests are even found in cholla cacti.

How high are Scrub Jay nests?

Scrub jay nests are typically low to the ground. On average, nest height ranges between 1.2 and 2.6 meters high.

A pair of Scrub jays courtship feeding

A pair of Scrub jays courtship feeding

Nest Appearance

What do Scrub Jay nests look like?

Scrub jays construct open cup nests. The exterior is made up of interlaced twigs that make a basket shape. The interior contains finer materials, including weed stalks and thin twigs. Finally, the nest is lined with fine rootlets and horse hair.

How big are Scrub Jay nests?

The exterior diameter of a scrub jay nest averages 10 cm, while the interior diameter measures 9.5 cm. Nest cup height usually measures about 10 cm with a depth of 6 cm.

An empty nest of a Scrub jay

An empty nest of a Scrub jay


What time of year do Scrub Jays nest?

Nesting season for scrub jays typically occurs in spring through mid-summer (March-July). Pairs begin breeding between March and April. Then, nest construction quickly follows, usually starting in mid-April.

How long do Scrub Jays nest for?

Scrub jays nest for about four to five months between nest construction and young fledging. Once the nest is built and eggs are laid, the incubation period begins. The eggs hatch after about 17 to 19 days, beginning the nestling period.

Young remain in the nest for nearly the same period as incubation. Once they fledge, they stay with their parents for another couple of months.

What month do Scrub Jays lay eggs?

Female scrub jays typically lay their eggs between April and May. If the first brood is unsuccessful, a scrub jay pair may produce a second round of eggs later in the summer.

Where do Scrub Jays nest in the winter?

Scrub jays are considered non-migratory but do tend to wander beyond their breeding ranges during winter. However, they do not travel far and continue to seek shelter in various trees and shrubs - particularly pinyon and juniper, which are evergreens.

Nesting season for scrub jays typically occurs in spring through mid-summer (March-July)

Nesting season for scrub jays typically occurs in spring through mid-summer (March-July)

Nest Construction

How do Scrub Jays build their nests?

Scrub jays build their nests by making a basket of twigs and other plant materials. Once the basket is formed, the nest is then lined with softer materials, such as rootlets and animal hair. Nests generally take about 10 days to build.

What do Scrub Jays use for nesting?

Scrub jays use twigs and stems to construct the nest exterior. Fine rootlets, grass, and animal hair line the interior to make the nest softer.

Do male or female Scrub Jays build the nest?

Male and female scrub jays participate in nest construction. One mate gathers materials while the other stands guard, watching for intruders.

Scrub jay collecting materials for nest building

Scrub jay collecting materials for nest building

Scrub Jay Eggs

What do Scrub Jay eggs look like?

Scrub jay eggs are typically ovate and average about 27.8 mm in length and 20.4 mm in width. Egg colors range from pale blue-green, bluish-gray, sage green, or pea green. They are marked with small blotches or spots of brown.

How many eggs do Scrub Jays lay?

Three to six eggs are typical for nesting scrub jays pairs. The eggs are typically laid in April or May and hatch in 17-18 days.

Do male Scrub Jays sit on eggs?

Male scrub jays do not sit on the eggs. Only the female is responsible for incubation.

Close up of a Scrub jay cracking a peanut

Close up of a Scrub jay cracking a peanut

Fledgling and Parental Care

When do baby Scrub Jays leave the nest?

Baby scrub jays typically leave the nest 17 to 18 days after hatching. However, parental duties are not over once the young fledge. Juvenile scrub jays remain with their parents for another two months after leaving the nest.

How many broods do Scrub Jays have?

Scrub jays typically have one brood per season. A second brood is only likely if the first was unsuccessful. Otherwise, scrub jay pairs rarely have enough time left in the summer to raise another clutch.

Juvenile Scrub Jay (California)

Juvenile Scrub Jay (California)


Do Scrub Jays abandon their nests?

Unless the eggs are unsuccessful or something happens to the young, scrub jays rarely abandon their nests.

Do Scrub Jays nest on the ground?

Scrub jays do not nest on the ground. However, nests are constructed low in trees and shrubs - typically 1.2 to 2.6 mm high.

Where do Scrub Jays nest at night?

Scrub jays nest in densely vegetated trees and shrubs at night. They are particularly partial to pinyon, juniper, and scrub oak.

How to attract nesting Scrub Jays?

The best way to attract nesting scrub jays is to offer their ideal nesting habitat. They are most drawn to open pinyon-juniper woodlands or scrub oak habitats.

These birds need a nesting site that is well-concealed by vegetation. Nearby food sources are also vital. Scrub jays are attracted to peanuts and sunflower seeds at feeders.

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