- 10.2–11.4 in
- 18.1 in
- 3.2–4.2 oz
- Geai des pinèdes (French)
- Chara piñonera (Spanish)
- The Pinyon Jay's bill is featherless at its base (hence the name Gymnorhinus = bare nostrils). Nearly all other members of the family Corvidae have feathers covering their nostrils. The Pinyon Jay can probe deep into pitch-laden cones without fouling the feathers that would cover the nostrils of other jays.
- Although omnivorous, the Pinyon Jay is committed to the harvest, transport, caching, and later retrieval of pine seeds. It is aided by a relatively long, strong bill; an expandable esophagus; and long, strong wings. Individuals have excellent spatial memories that allow them to find most of their hidden seeds months after caching, even through snow.
- Although the Pinyon Jay is a permanent resident throughout its range, in years when cone crops fail, individuals often disperse far from their normal haunts, making them one of the truly "irruptive" species of North American birds.
- Pinyon Jay social organization is complex, with permanent flocks that may include more than 500 individuals. Many birds spend their entire lives in their natal flocks. Individuals that do disperse, usually females before they are one year of age, generally travel only short distances.
- Mated pairs of Pinyon Jays appear to coordinate their caching so that their cache locations are known to each other, especially the male. Although this behavior is difficult to observe in the wild, data from aviary observations and experiments confirm this arrangement.
Found in pinyon-juniper woodland, sagebrush, scrub oak, and chaparral communities, and sometimes in pine forests.
Pine seeds, some acorns, juniper berries, other wild berries, cultivated grains, arthropods, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, and small mammals.
- Clutch Size
- 2–5 eggs
- Egg Description
- Pale blue with dark brown speckles, usually concentrated around large end.
- Condition at Hatching
- Naked and helpless.
Large, bulky open cup of sticks, with a midlayer of grasses and an inner cup of fine, powdery materials, such as plant parts, feathers, horsehair, cloth rootlets, or shredded bark. Placed in trees.
Opens ripe green pine cones and removes seeds, probes deep into crevices in bark and soil, and kills small vertebrates with swift, well-directed blows of the bill to the head and upper neck.
Populations are declining. Destruction of pinyon-juniper habitat to create grazing land for cattle resulted in the loss of many jays. Changes in fire regimes has resulted in loss of many pinyon pines, threatening Pinyon Jay populations. This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.
- Balda, R. P. 2002. Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus). In The Birds of North America, No. 605 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.