The jay is a striking, unmistakable bird. It has a pinkish breast and back with black and white wings alongside beautiful blue wing feathers Their white rump and throat can be seen as they fly purposefully between cover. They also sport a black moustache, white crown with black spots, light blue eyes and a strong black bill. Unlike other corvids, their legs are a pinkish-brown colour. Both males and females look the same, but the juveniles have darker plumage with brighter legs and eyes, but they are difficult to differentiate.
Average Length: 34 - 35 cm
Average Lifespan: 4 Years
Average Wingspan: 52 - 58 cm
Their diet mainly consists of acorns, seeds, nuts and insects which are often fed to their young. They are famous for burying acorns in the ground in autumn for eating during winter. They will sometimes eat nestlings and eggs of other birds as well as small mammals.
How to feed: At large feeders or bird tables.
What to feed: Peanuts, mealworms.
Jays are monogamous, solitary breeders who start breeding in April. Together the male and female build a well-constructed nest out of large twigs consisting of a platform and a deep cup lined with softer material such as moss and hair. They usually lay 4 or 5 eggs in this nest which are incubated by the female for 16 or 17 days before hatching. They are then fed mainly insects by both parents for a further 20 days before fledging. They then depend on their parents for another 7-8 weeks meaning that jays will only have time to produce one brood each breeding season.
Jays are doing well in the UK and recent evidence suggests that they are expanding their range further into northern Scotland. Historically they were persecuted for raiding the nests of game birds, but this is now much less widespread. In the early 20th century, their blue wing feathers became very fashionable as a hat decoration and in making flies for fly fishing. This led to decreases in the population, but it has since recovered. Due to their love of acorns and mature oak woodland, the loss of this habitat could drive reductions in the populations especially if areas of suitable cover are lost.
Planting up your garden to create areas of cover for this shy bird.
Petition to protect the UK's mature woodlands, especially oak woodlands.
Welcome them to your garden by installing large feeders and bird tables.
Jays’ caching behaviour has been credited with the recovery of oak woodlands after the last ice age as they can carry a single acorn as far as 20km!
British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Jay | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/jay. Accessed: 30/08/2023.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Garrulus glandarius. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/eurasian-jay-garrulus-glandarius. Accessed: 30/08/2023.
Cheke, L. G., Bird, C. D., & Clayton, N. S. (2011). Tool-use and instrumental learning in the Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius). Animal Cognition. 14(3): 441-455. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-011-0379-4
Legg, E. W., & Clayton, N. S. (2014). Eurasian jays (Garrulus glandarius) conceal caches from onlookers. Animal Cognition, 17(5), 1223–1226. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-014-0743-2
Legg, E. W., Ostojić, L., & Clayton, N. S. (2016). Caching at a distance: a cache protection strategy in Eurasian jays. Animal Cognition, 19(4), 753–758. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-016-0972-7
RSPB (2023) Jay bird facts: Garrulus Glandarius, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/jay/. Accessed: 30/08/2023