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    Pinyon Jay Life History


    Habitat Open WoodlandsFound in pinyon-juniper woodland, sagebrush, scrub oak, and chaparral communities, and sometimes in pine forests.Back to top


    Food OmnivorePine seeds, some acorns, juniper berries, other wild berries, cultivated grains, arthropods, lizards, snakes, nestling birds, and small mammals.Back to top


    Nest Placement

    Nest Tree

    Nest Description

    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.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:2-5 eggs
    Egg Description:Pale blue with dark brown speckles, usually concentrated around large end.
    Condition at Hatching:Naked and helpless.
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    Behavior Ground ForagerOpens 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.Back to top


    Conservation DecliningPinyon Jay populations have been declining throughout their range. Populations fell by 3.7% per year between 1966 and 2015, resulting in a cumulative decline of 85%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 770,000, with 99% living in the U.S., and 1% in Mexico. The species rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is both a Tri-National Concern Species, and a U.S.-Canada Stewardship species. Pinyon Jay is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds' Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. Destruction of pinyon-juniper habitat to create grazing land for cattle has caused the loss of many jays. Changes in fire regimes has resulted in loss of many pinyon pines, threatening Pinyon Jay populations.Back to top

    Backyard Tips

    This species often comes to bird feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.

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    Balda, Russell P. 2002. Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    Partners in Flight. 2017. Avian Conservation Assessment Database. 2017.

    Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon and W. A. Link. The North American breeding bird survey, results and analysis 1966-2015 (Version 2.07.2017). USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 2017.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

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