7 things you never knew about the jay

Discover fantastic facts about our most colourful crow - the jay.

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1 Nut spread

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Jays are important dispersers of oak trees. The bird’s specific name, glandarius, translates as ‘of acorns,’ which alludes to the bird’s habit of caching the nuts for the winter. A single jay may cache 5,000 in a season.

2 Anty vigil

Jays are enthusiastic ‘anters,’ alighting on ant nests – especially wood ants – and allowing the insects to crawl over them. The behaviour remains mysterious, though it might help remove parasites from the feathers.

3 Voice throwing

Jays are skilful mimics of other birds and animals. When threatened, they are likely to imitate the calls of tawny owls, sparrowhawks and even domestic cats.

4 Mistaken identity

The generic name, Garrulus, is a fitting one for this noisy, colourful crow. But the name originally belonged to the waxwing and was only later given to the jay because they were erroneously believed to be closely related.

5 Heard not seen

Despite their unmistakable, gaudy plumage, these colourful members of the crow family are more often heard than seen. Their Welsh name, Ysgrech y Coed, means ‘shrieker of the woods.’

6 Table decoration

Jays occur throughout Britain and Ireland, apart from the north of Scotland and the far west of Ireland. They are fairly frequent visitors to garden feeders, especially from mid-May to late July.

7 Fashion victims

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In the 19th century, the jay’s bright blue wing feathers were a popular fashion accessory. In 1880, Maria Alexandrovna, the Duchess of Edinburgh, owned a muff made entirely from jay feathers.