This bird, a member of the crow family, has been very difficult to capture in its full glory. The last 4 or 5 months we’ve seen them, but as soon as you get near them, they go into hiding. So it was much to my surprise when at Idle Valley beside the river, 4 to 5 jays were on show hunting for food on a red hot day.
I watched these jays for ages as they hunted smaller birds, hanging off the willow branches over the river for insects and flies. Small blue tits, great tits and long tailed tits carried on taking food from the leaves, unaware of the stalking jays.
As you can see in the first picture, the beautifully coloured jay is looking upwards at a small tit that had just landed.
The jay will breed in various types of woodland, and prefers areas with acorns and beech nuts. These are cached in autumn as food for the winter. They will also eat fruit, as well as others’ eggs and, as I witnessed, the young of smaller birds. Jays are quite common, but vigilant and very shy, making them difficult to approach.
Their plumage is a pinkish and greyish colour, with a whitish throat and vent. The wings are eye-catching black and white with a blueish panel on the top end. They also show off a streaked head and black moustache. The crown feathers are sometimes raised, and it can be located by its loud, intense, hoarse scream – normally used as a warning call, advertising their presence to others.
I’ve heard these birds in the woods at Ordsall, and when there’s a group of them it can get really noisy.
The jay will nest in a tree, and the eggs are a pale greeny-brown with a black squiggle across the top, making it look like a crack in the egg.
These pictures have taken a number of months to get, and although they are loud, mischievous and take little birds, they are a lovely sight, and we never get tired of hearing them on our birding adventures.
We hope you find them as pretty as we do. When you hear a row in the woods, could it be a jay?