There are two distinct populations of the Green Jay. The first is found north of the Rio Grande river in southern Texas to north central Honduras. The second population stretches from Colombia and Venezuela south through eastern Ecuador and Peru to Bolivia.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: RESIDENT: from Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, and southern Texas south to Honduras, also in South America (mountains and foothills of northern Venezuela east to Sucre) and Andes of western Venezuela, Colombia, eastern Ecuador, eastern Peru, and northwestern Bolivia (La Paz and Cochabamba); Perija Mountains on Venezuela-Colombia border (Ridgely and Tudor 1989).
The Green Jay is a long-tailed bird with a short crest. It is similar in size to a Blue Jay. Its wings, however, are shorter and more rounded. The Texas Green Jay has stiff, short deep blue nasal and frontal plumes. Its forehead, crown, and nape are white to bluish white. The feathers of the mantle, back, rump, and uppertail-coverts are deep green and sometimes tinged with blue. The breast and remaining underparts are yellow to yellow-green. Individuals from South America are a little larger and with longer nasal and frontal plumes that form a bushy crest.
Length: 27 cm
Weight: 100 grams
Habitat and Ecology
The Texas Green Jay prefers open woodland, dense secondary growth, and bushy thickets dominated by mesquite. This jay is also found in citrus groves. Middle American populations prefer humid forests, rain forests, lowlands, plantations, and mountains. In South America the Green Jay is found in humid montane forest and forest borders, clearings, and secondary woodland.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Comments: Humid forest, forest edge, dense second growth, evergreen dry subtropical forest, clearings, plantations, pine-oak association, and less commonly, open situations with scattered trees. Visits towns, ranches, and open country in winter. Tolerates good deal of habitat disturbance (Ridgely and Tudor 1989). BREEDING: Nests in well-hidden site in thicker shrubs and trees, often low, usually at 1.5-4.5 m.
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Green jays are omnivorous. Their basic diet consists of arthropods, vertebrates, seeds, and fruit. The bird forages in family flocks by examining new surroundings after hopping or short flights. When foraging, the bird moves from the lower portion of a tree in a spiral fashion up to the branches. The jay ocassionally hovers to inspect slender branches and clumps of moss. When foraging on the ground as an individual, it turns over dry leaves and twigs by sweeping its bill from side to side.
Comments: Eats insects and spiders, seeds, grains, and fruits (Terres 1980).
Yearlings provide significant amount of territorial defense of their parents' nesting territory. In Texas, group size 6-9 (mostly family members); territory size 14-19 ha (Gayou 1986). Groups of 3-9 on permanent territories in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Life History and Behavior
Status: wild: 139 months.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The Green Jay practices monogamy, and pairs may form at any time during the year through the replacentment of an absent breeder. During the breeding season, a breeding pair rarely parts. Nests are usually in dense thickets, and trees and bushy shrubs are common nesting sites. Both the male and the female participate equally in choosing the nest site and building the nest. In Colombia, other members of a flock have occassionally been seen to participate in constructing the nest. The nest is cupped and its thin walls enable the eggs inside to be seen from below. Green Jay nests are constructed of thorny twigs and sticks and lined with roots, stems, moss, or dry leaves. Average clutch size is four grayish-white oval eggs. Incubation is performed only by the female and lasts 17 days. In Texas populations, the female is fed by the male at least six times a day. In South American populations, the female is fed by her mate; however, during the last three days of incubation she is fed by other flock members. After the chicks have hatched, the male continues to bring food to the nest for five days, then both parents share equally in bringing food to the chicks. Once the chicksd leave the nest, the female continues to feed them for three weeks. In Columbian flocks, all members cooperate in bringing food to the young and continue feeding the chicks for at least 20 days after they leave the nest.
Average eggs per season: 4.
Eggs laid April-May in north (Texas). Clutch size 3-5 (commonly 4). Incubation 15-17 days, by female. Young tended by both parents, leave nest at 19 days; stay in family flock for 1 year, until young of following year fledge (Gayou 1986). Each flock has a breeding pair and helpers (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Cyanocorax yncas
There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cyanocorax yncas
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 11
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2008Least Concern
- 2004Least Concern
The Green Jay holds no special status, but populations are limited by the amount of breeding habitat available. The bird is also vulnerable to traps set for other animals. The effects of trapping can be can be reduced by closing the traps at dusk or checking them at frequent intervals.
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
The Green Jays of the Northern population are smaller, at 25–29 cm (10–11.5 in), than the South American birds, at 29.5–34.3 cm (11.7–13.6 in). Weight ranges from 66 to 110 grams (2.3–3.9 oz). They have feathers of yellowish-white with blue tips on the top of the head, cheeks and nape, though some taxa have more blue than others. In South American populations, the crown can appear almost entirely white, with less extensive blue. A black bib forms a thick band up to the sides of the head as well as a stripe through the eye line and one above it. The breast and underparts typically are bright to dull yellow, or strongly green-tinged in the far northernmost part of its range. The upper parts are rich green. It has large nasal bristles that form a distinct tuft in some subspecies, but are less developed in others. The color of the iris ranges from dark brownish to bright yellow depending on the subspecies.
It has been suggested that the North American taxa should be considered separate species, Cyanocorax luxuosus. If following this taxonomy, the northern species retains the common name Green Jay, while the South American population, which retains the scientific name C. yncas, is renamed the Inca Jay.
Green Jays feed on a wide range of insects and other invertebrates and various cereal grains. They take ebony (Ebenopsis spp.) seeds where these occur, and also any oak species' acorns, which they will cache. Meat and human scraps add to the diet when opportunity arises. Green Jays have been observed using sticks as tools to extract insects from tree bark.
Green Jays usually build a nest in a tree or in a thorny bush or thicket, and the female lays three to five eggs. Only the female incubates, but both parents take care of the young. In Colombia, the Green Jay is recorded as retaining offspring for several years, and those young help the parents raise more chicks.
Their basic diet consists of arthropods, vertebrates, seeds, and fruit.
As with most of the typical jays, this species has a very extensive voice repertoire. The bird's most common call makes a rassh-rassh-rassh sound, but many other unusual notes also occur. One of the most distinctive calls sounds like an alarm bell.
Distribution and habitat
The range extends southwards from southern Texas into Mexico and Central America, with a break before the species reappears in a broad sweep across the highlands (primarily the Andes) of South America in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.
- BirdLife International (2004). Cyanocorax yncas. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
- Green Jay, Life History, All About Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Allaboutbirds.org. Retrieved on 2013-03-30.
- Ridgely, R. S.; & Greenfield, P. J. (2001). The Birds of Ecuador – Field Guide. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8721-8
- Hilty, S. L. (2003). Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02131-7
- "Tool use by Green Jays" (PDF). Wilson Bulletin 94 (4): 593–594. 1982.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Distinctive Middle American group sometimes has been treated as a species, C. LUXUOSUS, separate from South American C. YNCUS. Sometimes treated in genus XANTHOURA.