Be Your Own Birder

Bird of the Week: Green Jay

With St. Patrick’s Day on the way this weekend and spring colors popping out in many areas, there’s no better bird to show off a bit of green than the green jay. A corvid that is as cunning as it is colorful, this is an amazing bird to see!

Green Jay

Green Jay – Photo by Andy Morffew

Name: Green Jay
Scientific Name: Cyanocorax yncas
Scientific Family: Corvidae

Habitat: These topical jays prefer forested regions and jungles rich with food sources. Their bright plumage blends in well with tropical foliage, and they prefer humid areas with dense thickets and abundant brush cover.

Range: Green jays are year-round residents of their range, stretching from the southern tip of Texas through the Yucatan peninsula and into western Honduras. These birds are also found in South America, with their range stretching a line from northern Venezuela to central Bolivia. The South American birds are occasionally considered a separate species, the Inca jay, and are just as colorful and extraordinary as their northern cousins.

These birds are hard to miss with their distinctive bright yellow-green plumage. The head is a bright royal blue, with a black face, throat and upper breast. The extent of the black can vary, and some subspecies of these jays even show a short crest. The long tail is lemony yellow underneath, and the legs and feet are gray-black. The brighter yellow coloration can even extend through the underparts, and the nape can be a range of blue shades, including a pale, even whitish hue.

Like all corvids, these are intelligent birds that are happily playful either alone or in family groups. They can be bold and raucous, especially when foraging for a variety of fruits, seeds and insects. Green jays occasionally cache food, particularly nuts, and they will also use sticks and twigs as tools to prod insects for easier catching.

Because these jays are so bold, they readily adapt to suburban areas in their range and come easily to feeders for a variety of treats, including the peanuts that are favorites of so many jays. I’ve been privileged to see them in person when I visited south Texas, and you can see them frequently as well if you tune in to the live-streaming birdcam at Sabal Palm Sanctuary. Check the feeder regularly and you’ll have plenty of green in your life leading up to St. Paddy’s Day this week!

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