- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
The soft-blue and gray Mexican Jay looks like a duskier version of other scrub-jays (whose genus they share) but has a smaller black bill and lacks a blue necklace. Its range extends from Mexico into pine-oak-juniper woodlands of the southwestern U.S. Mexican Jays live in family groups of up to 25 individuals and may have several active nests in one territory. All group members share the responsibility of feeding young. They rarely disperse and stay with their groups throughout their lives.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Mexican Jays are relatively common in the cool pine-oak-juniper woodlands of western Texas, southeastern Arizona, and a bit of far southwestern New Mexico, where they patrol their territories and forage throughout the day. Strolling a road or trail for a few hours will often turn up a flock. Listen for their far-carrying, nasal weenk calls, which flockmates use to stay in contact and communicate about predators.
- Chara Pechigrís (Spanish)
- Geai du Mexique (French)
- Cool Facts
- Many Mexican Jays living at lower elevations have hooked bills best suited for eating the meat of acorns, whereas those at higher elevation have straight bills which are better suited for eating pine nuts.
- Mexican Jays tend to open acorns by stabbing them with the lower mandible. That requires a lot of force, and the birds have evolved a specialized articulation in the lower jaw that acts like a shock absorber when they stab into the acorn.
- In some parts of their range, Mexican Jays overlap with three other jay species (Pinyon Jay, Steller’s Jay, and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay), but they all use different habitats. Mexican Jays tend to favor open oak woodlands with scattered pines and junipers. Pinyon Jays use very open stands of pinyon-juniper forest, mature pine, and oak. Steller’s Jays use open forests with large conifers. Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jays use dense scrub woodlands mixed with shrubs and cacti.
- In 2011, the Mexican Jays of central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Belt were recognized as a new, full species, called Transvolcanic Jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina), based on studies of their DNA, plumage, and skeletal features.
- Mexican Jays, like many other jays of the western U.S., hide or “cache” acorns to eat later. One study estimated that a single Mexican Jay might cache 7,000 acorns over the course of one year.
- In most populations of the Mexican Jay, the young have large areas of white or flesh color on the bottom half of the bill. It can take more than two years for the bill to turn entirely dark. These light areas can be used to identify individual jays.
- In winter, Mexican Jay groups are often followed by Northern Flickers. The flickers pay attention to Mexican Jay alarm calls and are protected from predators by the vigilance of the jays.
- Mexican Jay groups may number from 5 to 25 individuals, and may contain several active nests within one territory. Only the socially paired group members engage in nest-building, incubation, and brooding. All group members do virtually everything else, including alarm calling, mobbing, and feeding the young.
- The oldest recorded Mexican Jay was a male, and at least 17 years, 8 months old when he was identified by his band in Arizona in 1987. He had been banded in the same state in 1969.