The Mexican Jay (
) is a common resident in the Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend National Park. Outside of the Chisos Mountains of Texas, they are occasionally found within the National Park in the foothills and lowlands but, outside of these areas, the bird is quite rare in Texas with only a few confirmed records. Their preferred habitat is oak woodlands in the mountains. They predominantly feed on acorns, pinyon nuts, arthropods, and lizards.
The Mexican Jay is a member of the Corvidae Family (Jays and Crows). They are identified by their long blue tail, pale gray underparts, gray-brown back with blue wings, dark bill, blue head with a darker cheek patch, and a whitish throat. Within their expected range, the only other jay that may look similar is the Scrub-Jay which has a gray-brown back, white eyebrow, and a blue collar. Within the US, Mexican Jay is also found in parts of Arizona and New Mexico, but their main range extends through the mountains in Mexico. Although the birds are the same species, there are some minor differences with the Texas populations being slightly smaller and a darker brighter blue than the Arizona/New Mexico population. Typical weight is 4.4 oz or 125 grams. The call sounds like “wheet” and is frequently the first indication that you have found Mexican Jays as they tend to travel in groups making this loud and numerous call.
The Mexican Jay was formerly named Gray-breasted Jay. They tend to number in groups of 5 to 25 individuals and may have several active nests within one territory. Only the socially paired group members engage in nest-building, incubation, and brooding. All group members do virtually everything else, including alarm calling, mobbing, and feeding the young. Some jays feed at several nests within the territory, others feed at only one, and still others do not feed any young at all. In winter, you may notice that Mexican Jays are often followed by Northern Flickers. The flickers pay attention to Mexican Jay alarm calls and are protected from predators by the vigilance of the jays. The oldest recorded Mexican Jay lived to be at least 17 years, 8 months old.