Reddish Vale Country Park
Jay is a shy, intelligent member of the Crow family and can be seen throughout much of Britain. Various races of this species occur throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia, reaching Siberia in the east and the Himalayas in the south.
The most common noise produced is a loud scream, which serves as an alarm call; this earned the Jay the Gaelic name of 'screaching choille', which means 'screamer of the woods'. Jays attack crows, owls and hawks, mobbing them whilst mimicking their calls as an alarm.
At three years of age, Jays begin to breed. In spring, gatherings known as 'crow marriages', may occur, which allow unpaired birds to find a mate. The nest is built in a tree towards the end of April. The courtship display involves much posturing, with wings and tail outstretched. After mating the female lays between 5 and 7 glossy eggs, and both the male and female take turns to incubate the eggs. Incubation lasts for 16 days, after hatching the chicks are fed by both parents for around 20 days. After the chicks leave the nest, a close bond remains with the parents, who continue to feed them and stay with them throughout the autumn.
Acorns are the most important component of the diet of Jays; these are buried during autumn to provide a cache of food for more harsh times of year, and it is widely believed that Jays play a crucial role in the spread of oak woodlands. Several thousand acorns are stored by a single bird each autumn. They also feed on insects, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts during the winter, in spring they feed on caterpillars, and eggs are taken during the summer.
Anting behaviour has been observed in this species; ants are encouraged to swarm over the bird's body and the Jay seems to enjoy this immensely.
Wingspan 52 - 58cm,
Weight 140 - 190g,
Diet acorns, nuts, seeds and insects,
160,000 breeding pairs in UK.