The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Jays

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JAYS, a group of birds forming with the magpies a sub-family (Garrulinæ) of the Corvidæ, or crow family. They are readily distinguished from the true crows (Corvinæ) by their relatively short wings, long conspicuous tails, and usually showy plumage, in which blue colors are prominent. They are generally smaller than the crows, have weaker bills, and feet better adapted to the more completely arboreal life which they lead. Jays are found throughout the greater part of the world, but America leads in number and variety of species. North America has four genera and 10 species with many additional local varieties. A familiar representative is the bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata), which is numerous throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada. It is about one foot long, of which the tail is nearly half; the head conspicuously crested; purplish-blue above with a slight tinge of the same color on the generally gray underparts; the wings and tail are a nearly saturated blue in the males, duller in the females, cross-barred with black and with white markings especially conspicuous on the end of the tail; a rich black collar encircles the neck. The bluejay eats all kinds of nuts, fruits, large insects, and at times the eggs and young of other birds; it seldom leaves the trees in search of food, and when on the ground hops instead of walking like the crow. Except in Canada it is resident, and it breeds throughout its entire range. The nest, a large structure of twigs, grass, leaves, etc., is built in trees, bushes or old buildings. Five is the usual number of eggs. Like the magpie this jay is known to collect and hoard various glittering or brightly colored objects, but is chiefly noteworthy on account of the variety and quality of its notes which range from the harshest cries to full flute-like tones. On the Pacific Coast this species is replaced by the darker and duller Steller's jay (C. stelleri). The Canada jay, or whisky jack (Perisoreus canadensis) is, as its name indicates, a northern bird, found within the United States only along the northern border, and occasionally breeding in northern Maine. This is a dull-colored gray bird, without a crest, and with soft, lax plumage. It is well known to hunters and lumbermen whose camps it haunts with great boldness; and in manners and voice resembles the bluejay. It nests very early in the spring. Related species are the Oregon jay (P. obscurus) and the Siberian jay (P. infaustus) of boreal Eurasia. Several species of crestless deep-blue “Florida” jays (Aphelocoma) inhabit Florida and the West and the Southwest. The brilliant green jay (Xanthura luxuriosa) is an example of the gorgeous tropical jays which just enter the United States in Texas. Consult the works of Wilson, Aubudon, Nuttall and American ornithologists generally; for western species in particular, Coues, Elliott, ‘Birds of the Northwest’ (Washington 1874), ‘Birds of the Colorado Valley’ (1878); Dresser, ‘Birds of Europe’ (London 1879); Dawson and Bowles, ‘The Birds of Washington’ (Seattle 1909); Keyser, L. S., ‘Birds of the Rockies’ (Chicago 1902); Newton, William, ‘Dictionary of Birds’ (London and New York 1893-96).


1 European Jay (Garrulus glandarius) 4 Blue-capped Jay (Cyanocorax chrysops)
2 Mexican Long-crested Jay (Cyanocitta diademata) 5 American Bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata)
3 Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) 6 Spanish Jay (Cyanopica cooki)
7 Red-billed Jay (Cissa erythrorhyncha)