Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus
(Pinyon Jay)

Order: Passeriformes
Order Description: Passerines
Family: Corvidae
Family Description: Crows and Jay

Physical Description:
9-11 3/4" (23-30 cm). Blues and grays fading into one another; throat streaked with light gray; black, spike-like bill; legs and eyes black.

Similar Species- Other jays, Mountain Bluebird

A high-pitched caaa, sometimes sounds like wicked laughter.

Resident from central Oregon, east-central Montana, and western South Dakota, south to northern Baja California, central Nevada, and western Oklahoma. Occurs irregularly to southern Washington, northern Idaho, southwestern Saskatchewan, Great Basin and parts of Midwest, and portions of Mexico.

Found in pinyon/juniper woodlands, less frequently in pine. When not breeding, also found in scrub oak and sagebrush.

Eats pinyon and other pine seeds, berries, small seeds, and grain. Also eats larvae, nymphs, and adults of insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and ants. May eat birds' eggs and hatchlings.

GregariousClick word for definition; forms complex social organizations. Forages on ground or in foliage. May cache seeds communally and live in loose flockClick word for definition (flock has an established home range but may wander to other areas in search of food). Builds cup-shaped nest in juniper or pine. Breeds in loose, scattered colonies. During nesting season, flocks of yearlings may form. Nesting success is often low due to predation or severe weather.

Female incubatesClick word for definition 3-6 eggs (usually 3-4), for 15-17 days. Nestlings are altricialClick word for definition, are tended by both adults, and leave nest in about 3 wk. Adults remain paired throughout year. In Arizona study, pair bonds were apparently monogamousClick word for definition, perennialClick word for definition, and lasted average of 2.5 yr; males initiated breeding at average age of 2 yr, females at 1.6 yr, and deserted females were incapable of rearing offspring. Idaho study found jays had very low nesting success due to predation by Northern Harriers and Black-billed Magpies.

Element Code: ABPAV07010
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2
National Rank: N5

Important State References:
Brody, A. 1992. The sociality of pinon jays with and without pinon pine. M.S. Thesis, Idaho St. Univ., Pocatello. 179pp.

Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.