Crows and jays belong to the family Corvidae, which also includes ravens, magpies, jackdaws, nutcrackers and rooks. The five Corvid species found in the Bay Area are the Steller’s Jay, Western Scrub Jay, Yellow-billed Magpie, American Crow, and Common Raven.
Corvids are known to be the most intelligent of all birds, and can mimic other bird calls as well as human voices. They are all extremely social – living in large groups of extended family members, etc… Males and females of each species appear the same in size and feather coloration/pattern. All Corvids form long-term pair bonds. Common foods eaten by Corvids include carrion, insects, frogs, mice, snails, fruit, bird’s eggs, and food scraps.
The largest Corvid, Common Ravens are iridescent black and have a wingspan of 46-56 inches. They form large communal roosts in the fall and winter. Often mis-identified, ravens can be distinguished from crows by their greater size and by the shape of their tail in flight: the tip of their tail is wedge-shaped, whereas crow tails are slightly rounded.
Jays are known for their striking blue coloring. Steller’s Jays have a brownish-black head with a crest, and dark blue wings, belly and tail. Western Scrub Jays are baby blue on their head, wings and tail and white underneath. Scrub Jays live in shrubbery and Steller’s Jays are common in coniferous forests.
Yellow-billed Magpies are the only bird found exclusively within California’s borders. They have black and white feathers, a bright yellow beak, and are very sociable birds.
Birds Diving at People or Pets
Why? Parent birds use this method to keep predators, including humans, away from a nearby nest.
Suggestions: Although such attacks can seem frightening, few birds ever actually strike the target of their attack. If possible, stay away from this area until the young have been raised (about 3 weeks). If you cannot avoid walking nearby, wear a hat or use an umbrella to keep birds at a distance. Try to keep in mind that the birds are not vicious animals, but are dedicated parents defending their young.
Birds Feeding on Garden Plants
Why? Many birds visit garden areas in search of insects, seeds, and fruit. Some favorites among crows include corn, fruit, nuts, and grains.
Suggestions: Hang flexible mesh netting on seedbeds, vines, berries, and small trees. Netting used on trees can be hung just prior to fruit ripening so it won’t interfere with plant growth. Secure netting at the base and pull tight to avoid entangling and injuring birds.