Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Island Scrub-Jay

The island scrub-jay is endemic to Santa Cruz Island, the largest island of the eight islands in the Channel Islands archipelago and one of five islands in Channel Islands National Park, directly west of Malibu, California, but usually reached by boat from Oxnard or Ventura, California, which are closer. It is the only endemic landbird found on an island in the U.S. or Canada. It is also known as the Santa Cruz jay and island jay. 
This map, from Wikipedia, shows the Channel Islands and Santa Cruz Island, where the island scrub-jay lives, is highlighted in red-pink. 
Santa Cruz Island is 21.7 miles long, 2 to 6 miles wide and covers 97 square miles. It is privately owned, with the National Park Service owning 24% and the Nature Conservancy owning 76%, the largest privately owned island off the contiguous U.S. 
The east end of Santa Cruz Island.

The northeast end of Santa Cruz Island. Scorpion Cove is up the small valley just right of center. 
The island scrub-jay is closely related to the California scrub-jay which we have near our home, but it is larger, more brightly colored and has a stouter bill. Those found in pine habitat have a longer and shallower bill than those found in oak habitat. DNA studies show that it has been isolated from the California scrub-jay for about 151,000 years. Up to about 11,000 years ago the nearby islands of Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Anacapa, along with Santa Cruz, were one large island. They were separated by rising sea levels. So the island jay must have been present on all four islands after they were separated, but it has only been observed once anywhere else in modern records, on Santa Rosa Island, 6 miles away, in 1892. 
The island scrub-jay

I took a pelagic bird trip in March with Island Packers, which included about a one hour stop at Scorpion Cove, near the east end of the island. I hiked inland up a small valley and found it near a small campground in some trees. 
Scorpion Cove from the boat.

Our boat.

On the dock.

Hills near the harbor green from recent rains. 

The small valley we walked up - a little beyond where I saw the island jay. 

1 comment:

  1. The terrain looks a lot like our canyon, but that jay looks quite different from our jays. Great facts about Santa Cruz Island. I didn't know any of that.