This colorful jay of tropical Americas is a noisy delight to spot. There are about seven fairly similar subspecies of Green Jay.
Green Jays are sturdy jays without a crest. They have a thick, straight bill, a long, rounded tail, and fairly long legs. In flight, the broad and rounded wings are observable. These colorful jays are rich green above and pale yellow-green below, with a blue crown, black throat and eyepatch, and yellow outer tail feathers. Individuals farther south tend to be brighter yellow and have tufted crowns unlike those living in the north.
Green Jays are larger than a Northern Mockingbird, smaller than a Northern Flicker and similar in size to a Blue Jay. They are 11.4 inches (29 centimeters) in length and weigh 2.3-3.9 ounces (66-110 grams).
Green Jays can be found in woodlands and thickets, especially sites with native trees, but also citrus orchards and parks of south Texas, the coasts of Mexico and Centeral America, and a seperate population in South America. They never migrate.
Green Jays are omnivores, their diet including a great variety of insects, small vertebrates, seeds, and fruit. They also sometimes eat spiders, small lizards, and frogs, as well as eggs and nestlings of other bird species.
Green Jays are agile, active foragers. They forage in family groups, moving together as they explore an area for food before moving on. Some individuals work from the base of a tree to the crown, searching systematically. On the ground, Green Jays move leaf litter with their bills, exposing arthropods, which they capture with a pounce and peck. They may also feed at outbreaks of caterpillars or visit dead trees to feed on abundant insects.
Both parents select the nest site together. Nests are nestled in an average of about 8.5 feet high in dense, brushy vegetation. Both parents construct the nest together, a thin-walled cup of sticks lined with soft plant material. Nests average 8.7 inches across and 4 inches tall, with interior cup 3.5 inches across and 2.4 inches deep. The eggs are pale greenish white with dark spots near large end. At hatching, the hatchlings are naked and helpless.
Green Jays are highly social and usually found in family flocks that consist of a nesting pair, their offspring from the previous nesting season, and more recent fledglings. In the mornings and evenings during the breeding season, younger birds greet the adults by calling and hopping. Green Jays have only one mate throughout the year and remain in constant contact throughout the breeding season. Courting adults may preen one another while giving soft calls, and females seek courtship feeding by begging. Females indicate readiness for mating by bobbing and fluffing out their body plumage.
Male and female share incubation duties, and both feed the nestlings at the nest. The mother cares for the fledglings after they leave the nest, while the father spends more time with the yearlings. The yearlings' jobs differ slightly depending on where they are. They do not help feed their younger siblings but do patrol the edges of the territory, which averages about 40 acres in Texas. When predators or other Green Jays appear in the family’s territory, the yearling birds call loudly and may give chase, often making swooping dives at the intruder, sometimes with help from the male parent. As younger birds mature, after just over a year, the male parent joins them regularly on daily territorial patrols and eventually drives them away from the territory.
Green Jays give frequent, loud bell-like calls in flight and fairly regular, loud cheh contact calls when foraging together. Many other calls, used in specific social situations, sound like screaming, bubbling, rattling, buzzing, peeping, and clicking.
Green Jay populations in Texas grew a little per year recently as the species’ range expanded northward. These birds are of low concervation concern.
- Green Jays are among the few North American bird species known to use tools, using sticks to pry up loose bark, exposing insect prey.
- Green Jays are excellent mimics. In Texas, they may imitate the call of various hawks to frighten away other bird species from food they want to eat.
- The Central American and South American populations of the Green Jay are separated by 900 miles. The two different groups differ in color, calls, and habitat use, and may even be different species. The South American Green Jays are larger and have a crest in front of their eyes.
- The oldest recorded Green Jay was at least 11 years and 7 months old. It lived in Texas.
- Green Jays are also called Chara Verde (in Spanish) and Geai vert (in French).