Graduation Date

Fall 2022

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Natural Resources, option Wildlife

Committee Chair Name

Jeffrey Black

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Micalea Szykman-Gunther

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Barbara Clucas

Third Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



For millennia, humans and wildlife coevolved in a myriad of landscapes influencing each other through social interactions. Humans may be providing non-verbal signals in their facial features with gaze and head orientation that are perceived by non-human animals. The ability to follow human eye gaze and head orientation could enable non-human animals to access valuable resources, for example, birds provided with supplemental food. Few studies have quantified how closely birds in the wild watch and respond to ‘familiar’ humans who regularly provide food. From 2015-2019, Steller’s jays (Cyanocitta stelleri) in Arcata, California were fed shelled peanuts and observed approaching human providers. In 2021, I investigated how free-ranging color-marked Steller’s jays recognized and responded to five human social cues displayed, first, by a familiar human food provider, and second, by an unfamiliar human food provider. Steller’s jays responded differently to the first and second human providers, but not to the cues they displayed (eye gaze and posture). The lack of response to human social cues could be broad-scale habituation of humans in the study area. Habituated Steller’s jays exposed to regular supplemental feeding may recognize human faces and social cues, and may not be deterred by human gaze, whereas less-habituated individuals may be more wary of human gaze direction. Understanding how wild animals perceive human behavior at an individual and population level may minimize human-wildlife disturbance and inform conservation practices.

Citation Style

Journal of Wildlife Management


Thesis/Project Location