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MTM – The Jay , Garrulus glandarius

The Jay is undoubtedly the most colourful member of the crow family of birds Family name Corvidae. The genus term, Garrulus, means noisy and chattering; the secondary term, glandarious, means “of acorns”, pertaining to the Jay’s habit of favouring acorns as part of its diet . They are widespread across the UK, apart from northern Scotland, and are active throughout the year. They favour broadleaf woodland habitats but are also found in conifer woodland, scrub and urban areas. Jays are timid and shy birds  most noticeable in autumn when they’re foraging for and burying acorns, but they can be seen all year round. Jays can be extremely territorial over both their food and nesting areas.

You’re likely to hear a jay before you see it – it has a characteristic ‘screeching’ call. It’s also a skilled mimic, sometimes copying the songs and calls of other birds. The jay has pale pink plumage, a black tail and white rump. Its head has a pale crown with black streaks, and black facial markings and bill. Its wings are black and white with a panel of distinctive electric-blue feathers. It has a wingspan of around 55cm and is 35cm from tail to beak. Average weight is between 140 – 180g .

April is usually the beginning of the nesting period for jays. Pairs mate for life and work together to construct their messy-looking nests. Nests are built in trees and shrubs using twigs, with roots and hair for lining, where the female will lay four to five eggs. Eggs are incubated for 16 days, with chicks fledging at around 22 days old.

The Jay  hop around on the ground in search of acorns. One  specific characteristic of the Jay is their habit of hoarding and storing acorns for the winter period. Such behaviour has been linked to their high capacity and intelligence for anticipating different situations i.e. foresight and planning, a behaviour which distinguishes the Jay from other common garden birds. Research has shown that Jays can hoard and retrieve several thousand acorns over winter. However, not all acorns are found again, which means some are left to grow into oak trees. Jays will also sometimes take eggs and young from other birds nests.

The Jays UK conservation status is currently green , with numbers remaining stable at around 170,000 breeding pairs. In winter numbers increase as migrants come to the UK from Continental Europe to escape their cold winters, migrants start to arrive in October to winter in our less severe climate. The average lifespan of the Jay in the wild is around 4 years. It’s protected here by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Fact file

Full name.       Garrulus glandarius

Status.             Native

Wingspan.       55cm

Length.            35cm

Lifespan.         4 years

©️ wildonline 2023


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