Be Your Own Birder

Discover the Green Jay

Birders can be green with envy over sightings of the green jay, a remarkably colorful corvid. But there’s more to these tropical jays than just their brilliant color!

Green Jay - Photo by PEHart
Green Jay – Photo by PEHart

Green Jay Fun Facts

  • The green jay (Cyanocorax yncas) is a member of the Corvidae bird family along with other birds more noted for their blue, rather than green, plumage, including the blue jay, turquoise jay, azure-hooded jay, and purplish jay. Overall, the green jay is part of a very colorful bird family.
  • The green jay goes by a number of other names, including the Inca jay, and Rio Grande jay, as well as a variety of different Spanish names.
  • There are two distinct geographic populations of green jay – those in North America (from south Texas into Mexico and Central America), and those in South America (from Venezuela to Bolivia). The birds have distinct physical and behavioral differences, and may one day be split into separate species.
  • The green jay only first started appearing in south Texas in the 1970s, and their range has gradually expanded northward ever since. Today, green jays can be seen as far north as San Antonio, and it is believed that their range is continuing to expand.
  • Because green jays are so widespread, there is considerable variation in their appearances. The amount of blue, white, and black on the head, the intensity of the yellow belly, the length of the tail, and other traits can all vary widely between different populations. Some of these variations are split into different subspecies, but there is no universal agreement about the number of green jay subspecies (at least 10+) or where those splits should occur.
  • Like most jays, these birds are omnivorous and eat a wide variety of foods, from fruit, seeds, and nuts to insects, eggs, and mollusks. To find their food, green jays will occasionally use twigs as tools to pry up bark and reveal tasty morsels underneath.
  • These are social birds that remain in family flocks year-round, with last year’s youngsters helping mind the nest and defend the immediate area as new broods are raised. South American populations may remain in these family groups for several years, but North American green jays typically split up within a year.
  • Green jays have an extensive vocal repertoire, and they are also accomplished mimics. Different sounds of frogs and hawks are regularly heard in their vocalizations.
Green Jay - Photo by Andy Morffew
Green Jay – Photo by Andy Morffew

Adding the Green Jay to Your Life List

These brilliantly colorful jays are easy to spot within their habitat, and because they stay in family groups, where you see one green jay you are likely to see several. They prefer dense woodland habitats near humid waterways and can often be found in orchards, plantations, and parks. In nature preserves or at campgrounds and eco-lodges, they will easily come to feeding areas where nuts and fruit are offered, and those setups can give birders phenomenal viewing and photography opportunities.

For birders who may not be able to visit the green jay’s native range, these birds do relatively well in captivity and can be found at a number of zoos and aviaries worldwide, including the San Francisco Zoo, Houston Zoo, Zoo Miami, Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and Zoo Barcelona.

Learn More About the Green Jay

There’s always more to discover about such bold and intriguing birds, and these resources can help you find even more facts about the green jay.

Green Jay - Photo by Don Faulkner
Green Jay – Photo by Don Faulkner

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