Jay

Garrulus glandarius

34-35cm

Appearance

The Jay has a pink-tinged buffish body, except for a black strip heading back from the mouth, a white rump, belly and patch beneath the tail. There is a pale crest with streaks that is usually flat but may rise at times of stimulation. Wings are chequered with a black, white and blue pattern.

Habitat

Prefers oak trees, but may be found in other woodlands with mature trees. Also frequents gardens and other suburban locales such as parks.

Character

May be seen hopping on the ground, and is easier to find when it leaves the cover of woods toward the end of summer and in autumn. When in flight, birds may appear lethargic, but are surprisingly agile. Guards breeding territory but may socialise with other Jays during spring.

Food

Acorns are the main food source, and they hide these in times of surplus to return to later. Diet also includes caterpillars, beetles, fruits, nuts, eggs, small mammals and the hatchlings from other species.

Breeding

Female lays 4 or 5 eggs in April, and she incubates these for approximately 18 days. Both parents tend to the young, which depart the nest at about 21-22 days old, but rely on adults for a further 6 weeks or so.

Population

Birds of the region rarely stray far from where they hatched, though low numbers of acorns may cause Jays to travel. Approximately 170 000 pairs live in the UK and between 2500 and 10 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Jays are timid, which makes observation a challenge, and numbers are threatened in some places due to persecution. Birds are most visible and active in October, when they seek acorns and, for the lucky observer, may be seen carefully stashing acorns away for the winter.

Voice

Has a piercing screech of a call.
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