Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) -- photograph by Luc Viatour via WikipediaThe jay is one of Ireland’s most striking birds with its brightly coloured pink, black, white and blue plumage. Although they are the most colourful member of the crow family, jays can be surprisingly difficult to see. They are shy, and secretive woodland birds that rarely venture far from cover.

If there are jays in the neighbourhood, however, you will invariably hear them. They are noisy birds and their distinctive harsh screeching, usually given when they’re on the move, tends to betray their presence. When you hear the call look out for a colourful medium-sized bird on the wing through the trees, and particularly the flash of a distinctive white rump. Once you spot a jay there really is no mistaking it for anything else.

Ireland has it’s own distinct race of Jay (Garrulus glandarius hibernicus), which sports slightly darker plumage than its British and continental cousins. Adult birds are generally a pinkish-brown colour with a black tail, white throat and rump and a conspicuous blue patch on each of their black and white wings. A broad black “moustache” extends from the base of the bill down both sides of a white bib, and the white crown is streaked with black. Sexes are similar, and juvenile birds resemble the adults but tend to be fluffier in appearance and are more reddish in colour.

Jays are found in most parts of Ireland wherever there is suitable woodland habitat and are resident all year round. Although they are secretive birds they do tend to become more conspicuous in the autumn, when they often make repeated trips to collect acorns from one area and carry them to cache them elsewhere. The jay’s fondness of acorns and its habit of caching food in this way mean that jays play a vital role in the establishment and maintenance of the few native oak woodlands still left in Ireland. A single bird can bury several thousand acorns each autumn – many of which will be left to germinate.

Although acorns form the bulk of a typical jay’s diet, they are also known to feed on grains, invertebrates, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts. Jays also raid other birds’ nests during the summer if they get the opportunity, taking eggs and young.

In spring gatherings of unpaired jays, dubbed “crow marriages”, sometimes occur. These gatherings, generally consisting of thirty or so birds, offer young jays the chance to pair up. Jays start to breed in their third spring. Courtship involves a lot of posturing with wings and tail outstretched. The nest is typically a root-lined cup of twigs high in a tree in which the female will lay 5-7 pale green eggs with buff speckles on them. The male and female take turns to incubate the eggs, which will hatch at around 16 days. Both parents then work to feed the brood, which takes about 20 days to fledge. The family stay together long after the young leave the nest, with parents continuing to feed their offspring until well into the autumn. Jays only rear one brood of young per year.

Jays have been recorded attacking crows, owls, hawks and other birds that could pose a threat by mobbing them repeatedly whilst mimicking the other birds’ calls to raise the alarm. They also exhibit another unusual behaviour known as “anting”. A jay will sometimes seek out and actively disturb an ants nest. Once the insects are suitably riled the bird will stand in the middle of the disturbed nest allowing the ants to swarm all over its body – a sensation that your average jay seems to thoroughly enjoy!

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About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

Comments

  1. Have had a Jay at the bottom of the garden for the past couple of days , lodging in the trees that overhang the stream. A welcome addition to our normal residents ! Excellent and informative website , and thanks for posting the information on this colourful bird.

  2. Very interesting! Thankyou for posting this detailed info.

  3. Roslyn says:

    Hi I think it’s a jay it has a bright red breast and back with blue wings in our garden afew days now

  4. Just had 2 jays in garden – 1 was having a bath on the patio table in the rain and the second just made 1 sweeping visit. It was my first sighting of these birds in 20 years here in outskirts of Leixlip.

    • Lovely birds aren’t they Anne… always great to get them in the garden. They can be very shy and elusive… particularly the Irish sub-species… so it’s a treat to get a good view of them.

  5. maureen says:

    Just saw a jay in my garden in clonroche co Wexford , I live around alot of trees and woodland , what a fabulous amazing looking bird 5.5.15 Maureen

  6. I have never seen the eurasian jay before but this week i have had 2 visit the garden everyday they are so beautiful. I love to watch them and listen to them.

  7. Sean Conchoille says:

    Seen my first Jay in Strangford,beautiful creature,am well pleased.????

  8. Saw one of these for the first time this morning in my garden. Very colourful and attractive bird.

  9. Seen my very first Jay today whilst walkimg the dog in the woodland section of Redburn Country Park, Co. Down. Stunning looking bird!

  10. Sean O Mahony says:

    A pair of jays visit my garden frequently in Summer, and attack my unripe apples. what do you do with a beautiful pest?

Trackbacks

  1. […] Did you know? Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) July 5, 2011 By Calvin Leave a Comment #leftcontainerBox { border:1px solid #808080;float:left; position: fixed; top:40%; left:60px; z-index:1; background-color:#F0F4F9} #leftcontainerBox .buttons { float:left; clear:both; margin:4px 4px 4px 4px; width:55px; height:60px; padding-bottom:2px; } #bottomcontainerBox { border:1px solid #808080;float:left; height:30px; width:100%; background-color:#F0F4F9} #bottomcontainerBox .buttons { float:left; height:30px; width:85px; margin:4px 4px 4px 4px; } Tweet In the spotlight this week it’s our most colourful crow… the Eurasian Jay. […]

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