A Raucous Blue and Gray in the Live Oak

By Dave Hanks

MEXICAN JAYS (also known as Gray-Breasted Jays) are a very attractive species, but they are extremely noisy and aggressive. In southern Arizona campgrounds, they will often be the first bird to grace your food offerings. Once one has found the source, he will broadcast the fact to all around. We have found that they readily come to peanut butter or suet. Fruit, seeds, and insects are also consumed, but acorns make up the biggest part of their diet. That is why this bird is found in Oak woodlands. They will cache acorns and pine nuts for winter consumption. Their memory is good, and therefore they are moderately skillful at finding the caches.

These very social birds are found in groups of 5 to 25. Three years are required to reach sexual maturity, and then reproduction is a community affair. A nest will contain 4 to 7 pale green eggs that are the result of several parents. DNA tests have shown this to be true. Feeding the young is also a cooperative effort, with the previous yearís offspring (whether related or not) getting in on the act. Young birds are a duller blue and have white at the base of their bill.

Flickers that have migrated south for the winter will follow the jays. The jayís noisiness and alarm calls alert the flickers to the presence of a predator. We also appreciate this species when we migrate to southerly climes. They alert other bird species to come to the banquet that we have laid out as a lure.

Mexican Jays donít migrate and the young do not disperse very far from where they were hatched. Seven sub-species are found within their range which covers Mexico, southern Arizona, southern Texas, and southern New Mexico. Twenty years is a long life span for birds, but this jay often survives that long. The many eyes of the group make it difficult for an enemy to surprise them.

(Perched on a water pump handle)