Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

Pinyon Jay

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Corvidae | [latin] Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus | [UK] Pinyon Jay | [FR] Geai des pinedes | [DE] Nacktschnabel-Haher | [ES] Chara pinonera | [NL] Pinyongaai


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Garrulus cyanocephalus
Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus NA w

Physical charateristics

Looks like a small dull blue crow , but nearer the size of a Robin, with a long sharp bill. Readily told from Scrub Jay by its short tail, uniform blue coloration, and crowlike flight; from Steller’s by lack of a crest. (
b Caution: Steller’s Jay depresses crest when flying). Pinyon Jays are gregarious, often gathering in large noisy flocks and walking about like small crows.

Listen to the sound of Pinyon Jay

[audio: Jay.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 44 cm wingspan max.: 48 cm
size min.: 26 cm size max.: 29 cm
incubation min.: 16 days incubation max.: 17 days
fledging min.: 19 days fledging max.: 22 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : West


Pinyon pines, junipers; ranges into sagebrush. Under normal conditions,
seldom found far from pinyon pines in pinyon-juniper woods. At times, perhaps when the pinyon cone crop fails, flocks are seen elsewhere in streamside groves, oak woods, or other habitats.


Nests in colonies, close together but usually no more than 1-3 nests in any one tree. Breeds mostly in late winter, the adults feeding largely on stored seeds; may nest again in late summer if pinyon pines produce an exceptional seed crop. In courtship, s
everal males may pursue one female in flight.
Nest: Site is usually 3-
20′ above the ground in juniper, oak, or pinyon, sometimes much higher in other kind of pine. Nest (built by both sexes) has foundation of twigs, inner cup made of shredded bark, grass, rootlets, pine needles, animal hair. Often steals
material from unattended nests of neighbors.
Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. Very pale blue-green to grayish, finely dotted with brown. Incubation is by female, about 16-17 days. Male feeds female during incubation.
Young: Both parents bring food for nestlings. Young leave nest about 3 weeks after hatching.

Feeding habits

Feeds heavily on seeds of pinyon pine; also eats seeds of other pines and many other plants, berries, small fruits, nuts, waste grain. Especially in summer, eats many insects, also sometimes eggs and young of smaller birds.
Behavior: Does much foraging on ground, also feeds in trees, and occas
ionally flies out to catch insects in the air. Almost always forages in flocks. Stores many pine seeds in late summer and fall, burying caches in ground, and is able to find them and feed on them later.


This species is listed as Vulnerable because of evidence for rapid population declines, presumably as a result of the conversion and degradation of its piñon-juniperwoodland habitat.
The major threat to this species is the destruction of its major habitat type, pinyon-juniper woodland. Land managers have followed a policy to eradicate this woodland, with the U.S. Forest Service classifying it as “non-commercial” and placing it in a “no-value” category. During the 1940-1960s, major programmes to eradicate the entire habitat were carried out, during which possibly millions of G. cyanocephalus died owing to habitat destruction. Currently herbicides, mechanical ploughing and fire are used to turn pinyon-juniper woodland into pasture land for cattle. Fire-suppression policies in south-west USA have led to huge, uncontrolled wildfires that have consumed large areas of suitable habitat in the late 1990s
Pinyon Jay status Vulnerable


Western United States, northern Baja California.
b Migration: Not truly migratory, but nomadic. May remain in one area if good cone crops are consistent, or may wander widely, especially in fall and winter.

Distribution map

Pinyon Jay distribution range map

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