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(Eurasian) Jay

Both sexes: Pinkish brown, white chin, black moustache, and blue patch on wings.

The Jay is a colourful crow that is about the same size as a Jackdaw.

They are mostly a pinkish brown, the underparts being slightly paler. The head has a black and white flecked crown, black moustache and white throat. The white rump contrasts starkly with the black tail. The iris of the eye is a pale blue, the bill is black and the legs are pink-brown. The wings are mostly black with white patches but also have striking blue patches, but close to these wing patches are actually bands of graduated shades of blue:

Primary Covert of Jay
Primary Covert of Jay

The Jay can raise its crown feathers to a crest when excited or displaying. Perhaps for this reason, novice birdwatchers sometimes confuse Jays with Hoopoes.

In Flight
In Flight

Scientific Name Garrulus glandarius
Length 35 cm  (14")
Wing Span 52-58 cm  (21-23")
Weight 140-190 g  (5-6¾ oz)
Breeding Pairs 160000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


Jays are very sociable birds and so have many different calls, and can imitate other birds, especially other crows. In the garden, we are more likely to hear their "krar krar" alarm call.

During the latter part of the winter, you may be lucky enough to hear their song, which comprises squeaky, clucking sounds.


© Jean Roché,
Alarm Call

© Jean Roché,


Jays feed on acorns, beech mast, fruits, insects, small rodents, bats, newts, birds' eggs and young birds. In the garden they will take peanuts and kitchen scraps.

Food, especially acorns, is hoarded and may be hidden in crevices or buried in the ground. Research has shown that Jays can store and, more importantly, retrieve several thousand acorns.


The untidy nest of twigs is built by both birds in a tree or shrub. Roots, hairs and fibres are used to line the nest. The male and female usually pair for life.

The eggs of the Jay are about 32 mm by 23 mm in size, and are smooth, glossy, and pale blue-green or olive with buff-coloured speckles. The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by the female. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
late April 1 3-10 16-17 19-20


The majority of the British population is sedentary, but Continental birds are irruptive when there is a poor acorn harvest and may arrive in large numbers along the east coast of Britain in the autumn.


Like other crows, the Jay was persecuted by gamekeepers in its traditional habitat where it took the eggs and young birds of game birds, but also by fishermen who used its brightly coloured feathers for fly-fishing.

The move into urban woodlands has provided them with a safer habitat and, compared with the Jays in the countryside, Jays in towns are doing well. The downside is that Jays may soon be hated as much as Magpies as more people witness them taking eggs and young birds.