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.
Where to see it:
The jay is one of the most widespread members of the crow family, occupying woodland as diverse as the Siberian taiga and the rain-forests of Thailand. Shy and wary, typically one first notices a jay dashing through the trees uttering harsh screams of alarm.
Gatherings of up to 30 jays form around March. These comprise unmated birds seeking partners. Smaller groups usually consist of an unmated female courted by unmated males.
In autumn and winter large numbers of acorns are brought back to the jays' territories and hidden for future retrieval. It has been estimated that a single jay could 'plant' up to 3000 acorns in a single month. On occasions, jays become bold, visiting garden bird tables for scraps. Several correspondents made reference to this habit when reporting siskins and long-tailed tits feeding on peanuts.
Jays are reluctant to leave the shelter of woodlands. When venturing across clearings and roads, they do so one at a time, the following bird not breaking cover until the previous one has made it safely across. Flight is laboured and flapping, but when on migration it is much more direct.