The Blue Crow

By Dave Hanks

This is the nick-name of the Pinyon Jay. They are one of the most gregarious birds that I know of. They come into the seep in front of me in large groups. They are constantly competing for the perches around the water, exchanging places regularly. I have long sought after this bird and to observe them up close is a thrill. After slaking their thirst, off they all fly crying “fried rice, fried rice, fried rice.”

Pinyon Jays are basically a dull blue, but a lighter blue on the underside, 9 to 10 inches long, and with a shorter tail than other jays. The male has a slightly darker crown and a longer beak than its female counterpart. They are highly social and flocks may contain as many as 250 to 500 birds. They are also colony nesters. However, the colony may cover a very large area – sometimes only one nest in each tree.

This bird is found on low, dry mountain slopes of the western USA. Its habitat requires Pinyon Pine, juniper, and sometimes Limber Pine trees. Although it is omnivorous, Pinyon nuts are the main food on the menu. It will harvest thousands of the nuts – hiding them randomly throughout the area. The bird has a remarkable memory as to where they were hidden.

It is believed that the Pinyon Pine and Pinyon Jay are co-evolvers. The tree depends on the species to spread its seeds. Pinyon seeds are large, soft, and unlike other pines, easy to get at. These characteristics allow humans to also “gather pine nuts.”

A species that I once seldom interacted with, until becoming aware of several places that they frequent regularly. I now experience them more often. The blueness of a large flock gathering at a watering hole and all the sounds produced is awesome.

(Waiting its turn at the water on my photography stick)