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Woodhouse? California? Hybrid Scrub-jay Nevada USA (1 Viewer)


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Since the Western Scrub-jay was divided into the Woodhouse and California species, the most common Scrub-jay reported for Reno Nevada is the California Scrub-jay. In fact, over the past 10 years I have never seen a Woodhouse Scrub-jay in Reno NV. On Feb 22, 2024 I was birding next to the Truckee River in Reno when I happened upon a Scrub-jay that might possibly be my first Woodhouse Scrub-jay in Reno or perhaps a hybrid of California and Woodhouse? Unlike the typical California Scrub-jay, this bird does not have a "bold blue colar" bordering it's white neck. Is the coloration seen in this Scrub-jay still within the variation expected for the California Scrub-jay or could it possibly be a Woodhouse or perhaps a California/Woodhouse hybrid? Any insights would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Kathy

BZ5A6284 Scrubjay crop3.jpgBZ5A6286 Scrubjay crop2.jpgBZ5A6292 Scribjay crop4.jpg
Thank you Brian. The figure in the manual is helpful but I'm still left with conflicting features. The Scrub-jay in my photograph does not appear to have gray/tan underparts suggesting that it is a California Scrub-jay. On the other hand it lacks a "bold blue collar" suggesting that it is Woodhouse Scrub-jay. The fluffed upper breast feathers make it difficult to see whether there is a distinct shift in color between the upper breast and back feathers. If this photo is simply ambiguous then I will probably just have to report it as a California or Woodhouse Scrub-jay, unless there is something definitive that I am missing? Kathy
I've very little field experience with these species but to me the 'in hand' photo in Brian's link shows a blue band on the throat of the California Scrub-jay that matches reasonably to that on your photo.
eBird says Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay shows a diffuse breast band, bears it out with photos
I have no experience with the seperation of the two. eBird doesn't allow you to claim a hybrid, there's just a slash available. Did you see the faint, patchy blue wash on the tips of the undertail coverts? California Scrub-Jay is said to have the undertail coverts white. I wonder whether it could ve individual variation, or a backcross hybrid, or something else. Given that Reno lies in the hybridisation zone, I would play it safe and tick it as California/Woodhouse's Scrub Jay.

Also, the lower belly and flanks seem concolorous with the mantle. The amount of white on the breast is variable between photos--is it due to overexposure?
Interesting: looking at photos of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jays that got accepted in Reno area, some of them are more obvious than the above, but some are less so: Sign in.

If I were you, what I would do is report it as a Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay (so as not to lose a potentially valid record) with a description and caveat in the comments and see what the reviewers say, as they have more experience with the species pair.
Thank you for the advice 01101001 (catchy name..). The differences in breast color is mostly because I and the bird would occasionally shift positions (I must have at least 20 photographs of this bird) making the amount of light falling on the breast differ between photographs. I will report this bird as Woodhouse as you have recommended with caveats in the comments section. In case you missed it in my initial description, this would also be a first for me in the county where I live (i.e., Washoe) so it would be nice if the reviewers agreed with the designation. Best Wishes, Kathy
I am not, personally, happy with the idea of reporting a bird as a species when you don't yourself have evidence that it was one. Citizen science is dodgy enough as it is.
I am not, personally, happy with the idea of reporting a bird as a species when you don't yourself have evidence that it was one. Citizen science is dodgy enough as it is.

It doesn't matter, because if the record is incorrect, it'll be fixed and no false data is created. The point here is there is no way to contact eBird reviewers who know the birds in the area very well without submitting a rare report...that's why it was suggested above to post as Woodhouse's to get direct feedback.
I really doubt this can be guaranteed.

The record will become useless if the user rejects the fix, by the way eBird works. Rare sightings are "unconfirmed/not accepted" by default until a reviewer vouches for it and accepts it. Unconfirmed rare sightings do not show up on range maps or end up in any sighting databases or summaries.
My experience with ebird is what Tiraya has just stated, i.e., a rare sighting is not accepted until a reviewer vouches for it. The "evidence" is the photos that I have provided. If the reviewer doesn't agree that these photos provide convincing evidence for a Woodhouse Scrub-jay then the report will not show up in any ebird range map. In this case I will change my report and select the California/Woodhouse option.
If I saw this bird anywhere that was in the normal range of Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and well away from the range of California Scrub-Jay I think I would call it Woodhouse's and not think twice about it. If I saw it in Reno I would probably give it more scrutiny, but I think I would probably still conclude it is Woodhouse's. The only thing that suggests to me it might be wholly or partly California is that in the third photo the breast feathers look whiter than the back, but I think this may be due to the photographic conditions. The branches in that photo also look whiter than they do in the other photos.
To RKJ, Thank you so much for the feedback. I reported this bird as a Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay and waited 2 weeks for the eBird reviewer to get back to me with a comment but heard nothing. Over the years that I have used ebird this appears to be the standard operating procedure, I.e., hearing nothing means rejection. Having a report not accepted means that the observation does not appear when one searches either species distribution or photos on ebird. My guess is that there are just not enough hours in the day for volunteer reviewers to contact each person who reports a rare observation - although learning why the reviewer thought my photos were unacceptable would have been very useful information for me.

So, today as I indicated I would do earlier in this exchange, I have switched my report to California/Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay. The report and photos are now sanctioned and can be seen by all who search ebird. Going through this process has really peaked my interest about what the population of Scrub-jays looks like along the “border zone” of California and Woodhouse’s Scrub-jays that encompasses the Reno/Carson City area where I live. Going forward I plan to pay particular attention to all Scrub-jays I see in this area and document with photos all that seem to fall in this “in between” category of California/Woodhouse’s Scrub-jays. Perhaps after I have documented 10 or 12 “in betweeners” as Woodhouse/California Scrub-jays the reviewer might find the time to give me some feedback. I really appreciate all of the individuals at bird forum who do provide feedback to birders such as myself. More than anything, I just want to get it right. Kathy

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