Medium-sized and “clown-faced”, the male has a red crown, white forehead and glossy black face and body. The breast is white with black streaking; belly and rump are white. Yellow tipped throat feathers may be present. Wings are black with white patches. Eyes are white. The female is similar except for a black patch between the white forehead and red crown.
They harvest acorns directly from oak trees and are famous for their habit of storing nuts, primarily acorns. They may nest in the fall to take advantage of the acorn season, a rare behavior for birds.
Besides nuts and insects, they also eat fruit, sap, oak catkins, and flower nectar, along with occasional grass seeds, lizards, and even eggs of their own species. In the spring they gather in groups to suck sap from small, shallow holes in tree bark, often using the same sets of sap holes for several years.
3-6 eggs are hatched twice a year and will remain in the nest for approximately 31 days.