The colourful Jay

The colourful Jay belongs to the Passeriformes and the Family Corvidae { crow family} and given the scientific name of Garrulus glandarius, garrulus means chattering and from glandis meaning an acorn { a favourite food of this species}. They also eat beetles, eggs, nestlings, fruit, seeds, invertebrates and carrion.

The Jay is among the most handsome of our resident birds and are found in wooded districts. They are more often heard than seen. Their unmistakable raucous cries are familar to most country people and woodsmen. 

The exotic looking jay

Image courtesy of  Luc Viatour.   CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Description of the common jay

The plumage of the Jay is the most colourful of the crow family in the UK. It gives it an almost exotic look. It consists of pinkish brown with electric blue wing patches. There is also white on the wings and rump, there is also black on the wings and tail. The black and white feathers on the crown may be raised to form a crest. The bill is stout and of a blackish colour. The legs are brown to flesh coloured. 

In relation to its body size The wings are rounded and medium length, the tail is medium length, the neck short as are the legs the bill is medium. The flight of the jay is bounding and laboured. On the ground the bird hops. 

Image courtesy of Luc Viatour CC BY-SA 3.0

Historical account.

In days gone by the jay was persecuted by gardeners and gamekeepers. because of the manner of gamekeepers in those times, jays were often more familiar to country folk dead than alive, as they were often hung in trees or outside of gamekeepers cottages, along with stoats,weasels and vermin. This practice showed the gamekeeper's employer that he was indeed doing his job efficiently. 

All the above animals along with the magpie, crow and rook were regarded as being destructive, and accordingly hunted to death.  The jay , perhaps, with less reason than most. However, the jay can not resist the temptation of plundering the eggs and chicks of any nest, whether partridge or pheasant that it happens upon.

The blue flight feathers were once employed in the making of artificial flies used for trout and salmon fishing. 

Lifestyle of the jay

Owing to their cautious nature and wary habits the jay is difficult to observe in woodland. They are more likely to be heard than seen, however, in the autumn they may be encountered when they are in search of acorns. The jay is capable of carrying many acorns at a time by means of a specially adapted mouth pouch.

The bird often buries the acorns for use in the winter,however, they often forget where they have buried them or overlook some. If this is the case the acorns will germinate and in this manner the distribution of oak trees is often advanced.

Jays are resident birds that remain with us through the winter. Spring may see the jays gathering in noisy groups referred to as 'jay marriages' 

Nesting and young

When the pairing has been completed the process of nesting commences. The jays nest is never easy to find, for during the breeding season this normally noisy bird becomes exceptionally quiet, and the location of the nest is in thick cover, in bushes or low trees, rather than high up like the carrion crow  and the crow tribe in general.

The nest is large and the cup deep, but neatly arranged forming a cup of twigs, first coarse then fine ones. the cup is lined by roots and contains 4-5 eggs rarely more. the eggs are insignificant in appearance and small for the size of the bird. The ground colour is green which is peppered with dull brown blotches which at times almost cover the green background colour. they are similar in many respects to those of the blackbird. they are laid in April or May. 

Incubation lasts 18 days and is undertaken by both parents. The young fledge in about 22 days.  

Conservation concerns.

There are no conservation concerns for this species. There is an estimated 160,000 individuals present in the summer months.

Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}

Reuse of images.

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UK conservation status-2021

UK Green list. No current concerns.

Europe-Species of least concern. 

Associated pages. Click on the relevant content banner at the top of this page. Scroll down to view.

The crow family Corvidae.


Carrion crow.


All other birds that feature on this site can be viewed by clicking on the relevant content banners on the right hand side of this page. { they are all grouped together.}

The BTO.

Links--The BTO, click on the Links banner. Scroll down to BTO box click. this is a direct link to the BTO website home page.

Also see a comprehensive article via the Links banner Jay {Birds of Europe}, with observations from past ornithologists and other eminent writers. Images.description and latest conservation status. 

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