Jays are the colourful member of the crow family. They are mostly a pinkish brown with a black tail. The wings are also black but have white and bright blue patches. Although they are hard to see as they are rather shy woodland birds you may well hear their screaming call. Jays pair for life. They build an untidy nest of twigs high in a tree or a large bush and line it with roots, hairs and fibres. The female lays between 3 and 10 eggs which hatch about 17 days later. Both birds then feed the young who fledge just under 3 weeks later. The adults now continue feeding the young as they are not completely independent until they are about 2 months old. In autumn acorns are their staple diet. A single jay can collect as many as 3,000 which they bury in holes they make in the ground creating an important food source for themselves during the winter months. As well as acorns they also eat nuts, seeds and insects but are opportunists so will eat whatever there is an abundance of including nestlings of other small birds, eggs and small mammals. Jays indulge in a behaviour known as ‘anting’ where they actively disturb an ant’s nest. They will then stand in the middle of the nest allowing the ants to swarm all over them. It is thought the formic acid the ants produce helps rid the jays of parasites. Jays live for about 16 years.
Did You Know?
• Jays are accomplished mimics and will sing songs composed of all sorts of sounds including crying
babies, dripping water, lawn mowers and alarm calls other birds.
• Jays problem solving skills are equivalent to that of a 7 year old child.
• Several species of oak tree are dependent on the presence of jays to distribute their acorns.
• Jays can carry up to 5 acorns at a time – 3 or 4 in their specially adapted gullet and 1 held in their beak.