A California Scrub Jay perches on an oak limb in Bear Valley Springs.

Contributed by Toshimi Kristof

Toshimi Kristof took this photo at her Bear Valley Springs home of a California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) perched on an oak limb.

Until recently, these birds were known as Western Scrub Jays. However, the American Ornithological Union, which determines both the official common and scientific names of birds, has decided that the brighter blue, stockier scrub jay of California should be known as the California Scrub Jay.

In addition, the paler, more slender scrub jay found farther east, in Nevada and south to Mexico, even in eastern California, is now known as Woodhouse's Scrub Jay. The ornithological name of California Scrub Jays is still Aphelocoma californica.

California Scrub Jays are among the most intelligent of birds, and they continue to reveal their intelligence as additional studies into their behavior are conducted. These noisy, adaptable birds can remember the locations of more than 200 different food caches of acorns or other food, for example, and if they think they were spotted hiding a food morsel, they will wait until they are alone and then dig it up and re-cache it somewhere else.

You can sometimes spot California Scrub Jays standing on the backs of California Mule Ear, plucking off ticks and other parasites. Mule deer have been observed standing still to make it easier for the jays, or turning their ears to give the birds easier access.

The Nüwa (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for California Scrub Jay is Cho'ikizh, pronounced cho-EEK-izsh, and is an approximation of one of their raucous calls.

Natural Sightings is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News, edited by Jon Hammond, which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to editorial@tehachapinews.com.