Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
|Size||Wingspan: 54-58 cm (2)|
Length: 32-35 cm (2)
The jay is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3). May be killed or taken under the terms of General Licences (4). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green List (low conservation concern) (5).
The shy jay (Garrulus glandarius) is a strikingly coloured member of the crow family. It is generally pinkish-brown in colour, with a black tail, whitish throat and rump patch and a blue patch on the wings, barred with black (2). There is a broad black 'moustache' on either side of the bill, and the crown is streaked with black (2). Juvenile jays are a darker reddish than the adults (6). The most common noise produced is a loud scream, which serves as an alarm call (2); this earned the jay the Gaelic name of 'schreachag choille', which means 'screamer of the woods' (7).
In Britain, the jay is common throughout much of England and Wales, and reaches as far north as Perthshire, Argyll and Aberdeenshire (8). Various races of this species occur throughout Europe, North Africa, and Asia, reaching Siberia in the east and the Himalayas in the south (9).
The jay breeds in coniferous and broadleaved woodlands, as well as in large wooded parks, preferably where there are oaks (2), as well as in orchards and gardens (8).
At three years of age, jays begin to breed. In spring, gatherings known as 'crow marriages' may occur, which allow unpaired birds to find a mate. The nest is built in a tree towards the end of April; it measures up to 30 centimetres across, and consists of twigs lined with fine roots, grass and hair. The courtship display involves much posturing, with wings and tail outstretched. After mating the female lays between five and seven glossy eggs, and both the male and the female take turns to incubate them for 16 days (6). Following hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents for around 20 days. After the chicks leave the nest, a close bond remains with the parents, who continue to feed them and stay with them throughout the autumn (6).
Acorns are the most important component of the diet; these are buried during autumn to provide a cache of food for more harsh times of year, and it is widely believed that jays play a crucial role in the spread of oak woodlands (6). Several thousand acorns are stored by a single bird each autumn (8). They also feed on grains, invertebrates, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts during winter (8), in the spring they feed on caterpillars (6), and eggs are taken during summer (2).
Jays attack crows, owls and hawks, mobbing them whilst mimicking their calls as an alarm (6). Anting behaviour has been observed in this species; ants are encouraged to swarm over the bird's body and the jay seems to enjoy this immensely (6).
The jay is not threatened in Britain.
No specific conservation action is targeted at the jay (10)
For more information on the jay and other bird species:
Information authenticated by the RSPB:
- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
- Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
Naturenet (July 2002):
- RSPB (2003) Pers. comm.
RSPB (2003) The population status of birds in the UK
- Bruce Wilmore, S. (1977) Crows, jays, ravens and their relatives. David and Charles (Publishers) Ltd, London.
- Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air; the names, lore and literature of British birds. Book Club Associates, London.
- Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
- Walters, M. (1994) Eyewitness handbooks: Birds eggs. Dorling Kindersley, London.
DEFRA. Vertebrate wildlife management (August 2002):