Living Bird Magazine
Pinyon JayGymnorhinus cyanocephalus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
A highly social bird of the lower mountain slopes of the western United States, the Pinyon Jay is specialized for feeding on pine seeds. Each jay stores thousands of seeds each year, and has such a good memory that it can remember where most of them were hidden.More ID Info
- Chara Piñonera (Spanish)
- Geai des pinèdes (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The oldest recorded Pinyon Jay was a male, and at least 14 years, 7 months old, when he was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Arizona in 1985. He had been found int he same state in 1972.