Eurasian jays are the most colourful member of the UK corvid family. They are easy to identify from their bright blue wing patch and can often be seen in gardens in autumn caching nuts and acorns.
Scientific name: Garrulus glandarius
Status: Resident breeding species
Breeding pairs: 170,000
Conservation status: Green
Length: 35 cm
Wingspan: 52 – 58 cm
Weight: 140 – 190 g
Jays have pinkish-brown upperparts and underparts and a white rump, vent and upper nd underrtail coverts. They have rufous lesser and median coverts on their upperwings, with bright blue primary and outer coverts finely barred with black. The rest of the upperwing has black and dark grey feathers with white edges. Their tails are black.
They have white crowns with black streaks, and their forehead, lores, chin, and throat are white. There is a conspicuous black malar stripe. The nape and sides of the head are pinkish-brown.
They have strong black bills, with pale rictal bristles, light blue eyes, and pinkish-brown legs and feet. Both adults are similar.
Juvenile jays resemble adults but they have darker plumage, a greyer bill, and their eyes and legs are brighter.
Jays form long-term pair bonds and are solitary nesters that start breeding in April. Both male and female jays build the nest which is a deep cup-shaped platform made from twigs situated in the fork of a tree or the centre of a shrub. It is lined with soft plant materials and hair.
Jays lay 3-10 smooth and glossy pale blue-green eggs with buff-coloured speckles which are incubated by the female alone for 16-17 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 19-20 days after hatching. They depend on their parents for 7-8 weeks and reach sexual maturity at 1-2 yeas.
Jays will eat acorns, beech mast, seeds berries and insects. They will also eat small rodents, bats, and baby birds and eggs.
Jays are known for hoarding food by burying it in the ground and will remember where hundreds of stashes have been hidden.
Where to see them
Jays are found all over the UK except in northern Scotland. They live in woodlands, parks and mature gardens all year round but are most obvious in the autumn when they fly out into the open in search of acorns.
Did you know?
Several species of oak tree are dependent on the presence of jays to distribute their acorns.