Steller's jay has one tick on each foot. The ticks may be a species that is commonly found on birds or a species that was picked up from a mammal as the bird was scavenging.
Observation by Alicia King:
Visible ticks on feet of jay. One tick on each foot. The ticks grew in size and as of 10/19/19. The ticks seem to be smaller. Jay seems in good health otherwise.
Micah Hahn, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), writes:
Thanks for your observation, Alicia! We have six native ticks in Alaska, and two of them commonly feed on birds. It's possible that you're seeing either an Ixodes auritulus or Ixodes howelli on the jay.
Alternatively, I checked in with a bird biologist colleague at the Alaska Songbird Institute, and she had some interesting information to add about Steller's jays. She says they are year-round in Anchorage and have a very diverse diet including seeds, fruit, nut, insects, reptiles, rodents, and even other birds! Jays are known to scavenge (for example, Canada jays scavenge the remains of moose/caribou kills). It's possible that if this individual were feeding on rodents or scavenging mammalian remains, it could have picked up a mammalian tick that way.
You can read more about ticks in Alaska at the tick website my research group created.
And if you ever have the opportunity to collect a tick (perhaps on yourself or your pet), you can turn it in to the Alaska Submit-A-Tick program for species identification.
Comments from LEO Editors:
We appreciate all tick-related observations submitted to LEO. Although there are native species of ticks in Alaska, changing environmental conditions may allow other tick species to thrive and introduce new diseases to the area. Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) has partnered with Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and UAA in a new effort to test ticks that residents find. We encourage everyone to check their pets for ticks, and to submit samples to the Alaska Submit-a-Tick program. Erica Lujan