GENUS & SPECIES
• South American population employs as many as 10 “helpers” per breeding pair; they assist in feeding young and defending the nest
• During breeding season, a paired male and female frequently perch together at midday, sometimes in close bodily contact
WHERE IN THE WORLD?
The green jay is a colorful, lively and raucous bird; nonmigratory, it prefers to remain in its temperate hideaways where it announces its presence with a cacophony of calls.
A Gorgeous greens The jay’s shades of green match those of the forest.
In the U.S., the green jay is most numerous in the willow trees and tall brush along the lower Rio Grande and its tributaries in
Texas; but it is also at home, especially during the summer, in mesquite woodlands away from water In cooler months, when mesquite leaves are sparse, many green jays retreat to the concealment of evergreen trees and shrubs. In places where native evergreens have been cleared, troops of green jays bound and flit through citrus groves. As spring approaches, the noisy flocks partially disband, and pairs search out remaining thickets. Central American green jay populations prefer humid forests, rain forests, lowlands, plantations and mountains. In South America, the green jay is found in humid mountain forests and forest borders, clearings and secondary woodland.
The green jay has been seen covering its feathers with smoke from smoldering logs, probably to kill parasites.
The species name, yncas, comes from the first scientific reports of the green jay hailing from Peru, the land* the Incas.
Food & feeding
The green jay is omnivorous: it feeds on animals as well as seeds and fruits. Large insects are its favorite source of protein. After hopping around or taking short flights to examine new surroundings, the jay forages in family flocks. When foraging in trees, it moves in a spiral from the lower portion of a tree up through its branches. When foraging on the ground, it turns over dry leaves and twigs by sweeping its bill from side to side.The jay also frequents highway rest stops in Texas, zooming down from the trees to pick up the remains of human lunches.
During the breeding season, both parents bring food to the chicks. Once the green jay chicks leave the nest, the female continues to feed them for at least three weeks. Insects make up the major portion of the meals. In Colombian flocks, all members cooperate in bringing food to the young and continue feeding the chicks for at least 20 days after they leave the nest.
Central American green jays are solitary nesters, while South American and Texas jays are social, building nests near other jays. The nest is a platform of thorny twigs and roots, lined with mosses, lichens, dried grasses and leaves. Nests are usually found in dense thickets, trees and bushy shrubs, well hidden at 6.5-10′ off the ground. Both the male and female participate in choosing the nest site and building the nest The green jay is monogamous, and during the breeding season a breeding pair rarely parts.The female usually lays 3-5 oval eggs that are greenish buff or white and spotted with various shades of brown and lavender The female incubates the eggs for 17 days. The male feeds the female, sometimes up to 6 times a day. After the unfeathered chicks have hatched, the male continues to bring food to the nest for five days, then both parents bring insects to the growing chicks.
Careful examination An observant green jay scrutinizes a fallen tree for scurrying insects or scattered seeds.
Most green jays are nonmigratory but the Honduras populations migrate locally. The southern Texas and South American populations of green jay retain related juveniles and immature birds to serve as “helpers” at the nest. These flocks contain a breeding pair, the current year’s nestlings and the juvenile helpers. The helpers provide territorial defense, but are ejected from the Texas flocks when the current season’s chicks have fledged. Colombian green jays retain helpers year-round. Usually, the more helpers a flock has, the higher the survival rate of its fledglings.
The green jay’s flight is strong and steady but rarely sustained for very long periods of time. When an intruder is encountered, members of a family flock will call loudly and often swoop down, passing within I” of the intruder The jay’s first line of defense against predators is to stay hidden, but if threatened, the jay may scare off intruders with loud, raucous calls.The green jay has a variety of calls, and flocks are often noisy and conspicuous in the breeding season. Frequent green jay calls are a rapid, vigorous cheh-cheh-cheh-cheh sound and a slower deep-deep-deep-deep sound.They also make a dry, throaty rattle.These calls are given year-round, but the rattle is more frequent in spring.
A South American green jay’s nasal plumes and wide-open eye form an inquisitive expression, as the bird turns its head while perching.
► Proud parents Green jays are cooperative breeders: both parents and helper green jays provide defense for their nesting territory in southern Texas.
The green jay is not endangered, but populations are limited by the amount of breeding habitat available.The bird is also vulnerable to traps set for other animals.
tending the nest
While a female green jay feeds her chicks, the male stands guard from a safe distance.
A “helper bird” does its duty, bringing a fresh earthworm meal to the nest.
The team effort of a breeding pair and a helper gives new chicks the best chance of survival.
Several green jays mob a raccoonlike coati, which hopes to make an easy meal of their eggs.
The tufted jay (Cyanocorax dickeyi) is similar in size to the green jay. It emits harsh, high-pitched calls, similar to its close relative. While the tufted jay shares the green jay’s black markings, the rest of its plumage is markedly different, with a blue mantle and wings and broad white tips on its tail. The tufted jay thrives in mountainous forests, usually from 4,4007,000′ but, unlike the green jay, it has a very restricted range, from the Sierra Madre in California to the borders of the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Nayarit in Mexico.
|Weight Length||2.3-3.9 oz. 9.75-13″|
|Sexual maturity||About 1 year|
|Number of Eggs||3-5|
|Incubation . Period||17-18 days|
|Fledging Period||19-21 days|
|Breeding interval||1 year|
|Typical Diet||Arthropods, vertebrates, seeds and fruits|
|Lifespan||Up to 10 years|
• There are 12 species in the genus Cyanocorax including the purplish jay, C. cyanomelas, the cayenne jay, C. cayanus and the azure jay, C. cae-ruleus. These three spe-cies are found in South America. With 103 species, members of the family Corvidae are found the world over, except in Antarctica, New Zealand and some oceanic islands. This family includes crows, ravens, jays and magpies.