Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover.
The screaming call usually lets you know a jay is about and it is usually given when a bird is on the move, so watch for a bird flying between the trees with its distinctive flash of white on the rump.
Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter, they also eat invertebrates (beetles, caterpillars) mainly acorns, nuts, seeds and insects, but also nestlings of other birds and small mammals.
Forest, woodland, towns
Status in UK
Resident Breeder/ winter visitor
Conservation Status UK
Number in Britain
First clutches laid
Age at First Breeding
Maximum Recorded Age
16 years. 9 months
- The word "jay" has a long - standing connotation in American slang meaning an insolent person.
- The term jaywalking was created in 1915 to brand persons recklessly crossing a busy street and becoming a traffic hazard.
- Jays attack crows, owls and hawks, mobbing them whilst mimicking their calls as an alarm.
- ‘Anting’ behaviour has been seen in this species; ants are encouraged to swarm over the bird's body while the Jay spreads its tail and wings over the nest. The jay seems to enjoy this immensely. It is believed the ants spray formic acid which may kill parasites.
- Acorns are the staple diet of Jays; these are buried during autumn to provide a supply of food for the winter. Several thousands are buried each autumn, with the bird memorizing the position so they can be retrieved later.
- They transport food by storing it in a special pouch under the mouth and in the gullet.
- It is widely believed that jays play a crucial role in the spread of oak woodlands.
- They also feed on grains, invertebrates, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts during winter, in the spring they feed on caterpillars, and eggs are taken during summer.
- In spring, gatherings known as 'crow marriages' may occur; this allows unpaired birds to find a partner.
- They are monogamous, and form a life-long bond.