WatchList Species Account for Pinyon Jay
(Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Pinyon Jay


In the past, Pinyon Jay populations were severely depleted when its main habitat, piñon-juniper woodland, was classified by the U.S. Forest Service as “noncommercial” and therefore in the “no-value” category. Herbicides, plowing, and fire were then used to change these woodlands into pasture.


Although these old policies are no longer implemented, no improved land use policies have replaced them. In addition, much of the ponderosa-pine forest in the Southwest, where this bird also occurs, is in danger due to fire suppression, which can lead to huge, uncontrolled wildfires that consume thousands of acres of prime habitat. The current extended drought in the western U.S. is also affecting forests.


The Pinyon Jay is a highly social species, often forming large flocks of 250 or more birds, even during its breeding season. Their staple food is pinyon pine seeds, but they will also eat other kinds of nuts, berries, fruit, and insects. This jay is nomadic, travelling from place to place throughout its main range in the Great Basin of the west-central United States as pine seed crops ripen.


Although Breeding Bird Survey data shows a significant rangewide decline of 4.3% per year from 1966-2001, no special measures have been taken to conserve the Pinyon Jay at this time.