Did you know – Steller’s Jay?
Did you know that British Columbia had its very own referendum several years ago? It was about a subject far more weighty than separation from the rest of the country (indeed the importance of that question pales in comparison!). The referendum was to select the province’s very first official provincial bird. Members of the various naturalist clubs and the general public were asked to cast their ballots for either the Varied Thrush or the Steller’s Jay.
When the votes were tallied, the Steller’s Jay emerged the winner. With its bright blue body, black head, punk rock hairstyle, raucous call and perky mannerisms, the Steller’s Jay is a popular sight in local parks and gardens. Many people erroneously refer to this bird as a Blue Jay, but the Blue Jay is actually a different species. The Blue Jay is found primarily east of the Rocky Mountains, while the Steller’s Jay takes over from the Rockies westward. Aside from being slightly smaller, the Blue Jay has a lot of white around the head and undersides giving it a much lighter appearance than the jet black hood of the Steller’s Jay. If you’re not planning a trip east of the Rockies to verify this anytime soon, you only have to watch a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game on TV. The bird depicted on the Toronto uniforms, which is the real Blue Jay, doesn’t look anything like the jay that’s coming to your backyard feeder (if it does, please call the Rare Bird Alert line).
In 1725, Russian Czar Peter the Great hired a Danish born navigator, Vitus Jonasen Bering, to explore and chart the northeast coast of Siberia and present day Alaska. Bering made two expeditions and accompanying him on his second voyage, begun in 1733, was a German naturalist by the name of George Wilhelm Steller. Steller wrote a scientific account of the different animals encountered by the expedition, and in recognition of his pioneering work in this part of the world, the jay was named in his honour. He has two other birds named after him (the Steller’s Eider and the Steller’s Sea Eagle) as well as two mammals (the Steller’s Sea Lion and the Steller’s Sea Cow, a now extinct far northern relative of the Manatee).