Bird of the Week, October 14, 2011
Pinyon Jay

Pinyon Jay by Alan Wilson

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This small, crestless, blue-gray jay is highly social, forming enduring flocks of 250-500 individuals. Pinyon Jays breed cooperatively and seldom stray far from the areas where they were hatched. They feed mainly on pine nuts, which they store in the fall and eat during winter and spring. Local populations vary from year to year with the success of the nut crop.


Pinyon Jays have excellent memories, which give them an uncanny ability to relocate their food stores months after caching them. Nevertheless, there is always a proportion of the nuts that they don't find, and so their seed-caching behavior is important for the regeneration of pinyon woodlands.


Destruction and degradation of this habitat through cattle grazing, fire suppression, logging, and suburban development has caused steep declines in Pinyon Jay populations over the past four decades. Mortality due to West Nile virus has also been recorded.


For more on how ABC is helping protect habitat to benefit Pinyon Jays and other priority U.S. bird species, click here.

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Photo: Pinyon Jay, Alan Wilson; Range Map, ABC