Distribution and habitatEdit
A member of the widespread jay group, and about the size of the Jackdaw, it inhabits mixed woodland, particularly with oaks, and is an habitual acorn hoarder, Jays are known to hoard hundreds of them. In recent years, the bird has begun to migrate into urban areas, possibly as a result of continued erosion of its woodland habitat.
Its usual call is the alarm call which is a harsh, rasping screech and is used upon sighting various predatory animals, but the Jay is well known for its mimicry, often sounding so like a different species that it is virtually impossible to distinguish its true identity unless the Jay is seen. It will even imitate the sound of the bird it is attacking, such as a Tawny Owl, crow or magpie, which it does mercilessly if attacking during the day. However, the Jay is a potential prey item for owls at night and other birds of prey such as Goshawks and Peregrines during the day. Of the crow family, it seems to be able to out-wit and dominate other species such as Magpies and Crows. Despite a slight size disadvantage, particularly against crows.
Jays will engage in the practice of "anting" in which they will either place ants on themselves or lie over an ants and let the insects crawl over them. They do this because the ants will pick out the various fleas, ticks etc. which the birds pick up over time.
Feeding in both trees and on the ground, it takes a wide range of invertebrates including many pest insects, acorns (oak seeds, which it buries for use during winter), beech mast and other seeds, fruits such as blackberries and rowan berries, young birds and eggs and small rodents. In some urban areas, the Jay has been known to raid garden birdfeeders, taking a particular liking to shelled peanuts. When they find a food-source they can swallow a surprising amount whole and hold some in their beak before flying off. Presumably this is then regurgitated, and de-shelled. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest they observe squirrels, magpies and other animals to locate their food-source.
It nests in trees or large shrubs laying usually 4–6 eggs that hatch after 16–19 days and are fledged generally after 21–23 days. Both sexes typically feed the young.