As winter is leaving us, and we usher in spring, I am reminded of my trip to southeastern Arizona two years ago. I often long to go back to that area, as there were so many amazing things about it. One of my favorite birds throughout the entire trip, was the Mexican Jay!
It was a balmy February day in Madera Canyon. My friend and I had hired a wonderful guide, and we had just decided to take a break for lunch at the Whitehouse Picnic Area. While admiring Hepatic Tanagers, Bridled Titmice, and Least Goldfinches, the Mexican Jays quickly moved into the trees around the picnic tables. As if on cue, our guide reached inside her lunchbox and grabbed a bag of plain almonds and tossed a few away from the table. The Jays went to work immediately on snatching up the almonds.
The group actually passed around and shared the nuts. The adults would pass them down to the yearlings, now fully grown but with white on their bills. They moved around with energy and gusto. It was a treat! After reading up on this behavior I learned that some groups of Mexican Jays are communal breeders and have interesting makeups to their family units. Only certain members of the group will build nests and breed, while the rest of the group, including younger Jays, will do everything else such as providing food and calling alarms when needed. Some flocks live in and guard the same territories for generations!
Aptly named, the Mexican Jay resides in the mountains and canyons of Mexico, and southern Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They feed on the ground, often caching pinyon nuts and acorns, and eating insects and spiders in the open woodlands they inhabit. These birds can live for long spans of time for a songbird, with the oldest ever recorded at 17 years, 8 months old!
Spending time with the Mexican Jays is one of my most cherished memories from my adventures to Arizona. If you’d love to see the Mexican Jay, as well as a host of other amazing species of birds (over 360 have been reported in a one week span on ebird!), join Greg Miller and Wildside with an adventure to southeast Arizona on the Big Year Tour!
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