Monday, August 11, 2014

Western Scrub-Jay Genetics

Western Scrub-Jay that wintered in Moapa
There has been a fair amount of talk over recent years about splitting the Western Scrub-Jay.  Earlier this year, a fascinating article, written by Fiona Gowen and others, was published about Western Scrub-Jay genetics across their range – long story short, they found 5 genetic clusters, Pacific coastal, interior U.S., Edwards Plateau (Texas), northern Mexico, and southern Mexico.  They’re recommending further sampling of the Edwards Plateau and northern Mexico jays to determine what’s really going on with them, but in the meantime, they’re recommending that the Western Scrub-Jay be split into 3 species (the Edwards Plateau and northern Mexico birds would be lumped with the interior U.S. species, unless and until more information comes to light).

This study is of particular interest to Nevada birders, since the Reno-Carson City area is the primary zone of contact between the Pacific Slope and Interior U.S. populations.  Plus some very helpful figures and tables are included.  Hope you enjoy it, too!

Happy birding,

(A quick note on the photos - there were a fair number of Western Scrub-Jays that wintered in Moapa this year; this individual was one of the last to leave this spring (photo taken 2 May).  Note the differences in color/brightness and in beak size/shape, compared to the Reno-Sparks birds.)

Western Scrub-Jay from Reno-Sparks
Western Scrub-Jay from Reno-Sparks