Pinyon Jay: 21 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Pinyon jay facts like it is a species of jay found in North America are interesting.

Pinyon Jay bird species is a dull blue bird measuring about 10 in (25 cm) in length. The wingspan of these North American birds is 18 in (45 cm). The range map of these grayish blue birds stretches from Central Oregon, Montana, central Arizona, New Mexico, to Oklahoma. The pinyon jay habitat mostly includes the great basins. This bird species belonging to the order Passeriformes family Corvidae don’t migrate.

Dry mountain slopes and foothills close to the pinyon juniper forests are ideal nesting grounds for the Pinyon jays. Other than the ideal habitat, pinyon jays are also found in ranges growing perennial sagebrush, evergreen scrub oak, dense thickets of chaparral, and pine forests. The pinyon jay bird species is a size in between the North American blue jay and the pinkish brown Eurasian jay.

A pinyon jay has a grayish blue body. The long, pointed bill is black. The shape of the bill helps the ground foraging birds to feed on pinyon juniper nuts and berries, pinyon pine seeds, and acorns. Sexual dimorphism is almost negligible. The males have a longer bill a blue head.

You may also check out the fact files on the hamerkop and American golden plover from Kidadl.

Pinyon Jay

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Juniper berries, pinyon pines, wild berries, seeds of pine cones. Occasionally prey on insects, lizards, and snakes

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

0.19-0.26 lb (90-120 g)

How long are they?

10.2-11.4 in (26-29 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Dusky blue and white

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Pinyon juniper woodland degradation

What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Mountains near scrub oak, pinyon juniper forests, and pine forests


Western North America





Scientific Name

Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus





Pinyon Jay Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a pinyon jay?

Pinyon jay is a species of bird.

What class of animal does a pinyon jay belong to?

The pinyon jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus order Passeriformes family Corvidae, belong to the class Aves. This is a species of North American birds.

How many pinyon jays are there in the world?

It is estimated that around 690,000 mature, breeding pinyon jays are there in the world. The population is declining due to habitat destruction of the pinyon juniper forests.

Where does a pinyon jay live?

Pinyon jays live close to pinyon juniper forests on foothills and slopes of dry mountains. Pine forests, scrub oak, and chaparral communities where food is available are also their breeding and nesting habitat.

What is a pinyon jay's habitat?

Pinyon juniper forests are ideal homes for pinyon jays. The dry, elevated, pinyon juniper woodland, in the western USA, characterized by open forests, and low bushy sage bush are where pinyon jays thrive. The scrubby hills covered with scrub oak in the chaparral eco-system are also where large flocks of these blue-feathered birds are found.

Within the natural habitat of their range map, the numbers of these birds have declined in recent years. The main reason for the dwindling populations is the clearing of trees like juniper and pines to create grazing ground for livestock.

When pinyon cones are scarce large flocks move to habitats like riverside groves, and oak woods. Here they look for food like insects and berries. These jay birds look more like a blue gray crow and are missing the bright blue shades like the blue jay.

Who do pinyon jays live with?

Pinyon Jays hunt for seeds in pinyon juniper patches and pinyon pines in a large flocks. A single flock may contain 50, 100, or 500 members of the same family.

Large nesting populations lives in flocks. They make their nests range close to each other leaving enough space. There are only one to three nests per tree for this bird. The breeding season is in winter when the adult birds feed mainly on seeds stored during the summers. The nesting habits of these birds depend on the production of pinyon pine seeds which is their main food.

The breeding process starts with courtship. Many males pursue a single female in flight. Although pinyon jays live in loose flocks during winters, the adult pairs are strongly bonded. The flocks have been observed to forage and live within the map of their home range. These birds do not migrate with the season change.

Nest building is a couple’s activity and nests are built with twigs in the supporting layer. Then the inner cup is lined with grass, animal fur or hair, small bark, pine needles, and feathers. These birds often steal nesting materials from their neighbor’s nest.

How long does a pinyon jay live?

Pinyon jays have been known to live for 14 years. On average pinyon jays live for five to six years.

How do they reproduce?

The male and female pinyon jays build the nest together. Flocks of birds nest in colonies. The female bird lays eggs and incubates them in the breeding season. The eggs are pale blue green to grayish and are dotted with fine brown specks. The nest is placed on a platform at a height on a pine oak, or a juniper tree.

The eggs hatch in sixteen days. Both parents take turns caring for and feed the young chicks. The juvenile members come together in crèches or groups as the adults go foraging. The young bird is fed for two to three months by the adults.

What is their conservation status?

Pinyon jay gymnorhinus cyanocephalus, order Passeriformes family Corvidae, conservation status is listed as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN.

Pinyon Jay Fun Facts

What do pinyon jays look like?

The pinyon jay bird id is its dull blue plumage and appearance like a crow. The Pinyon Jay Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus are also called Maximillian's Jays and the blue nutcrackers as their diet mostly includes pinyon pine seeds.

They are colorful blue feathered members of the crow family. Adult males have pale blue feathers overall. Shades of blue feathers differ in some parts of the body as the flight feathers become duller and grayer. The head is the brightest blue.

Primary feathers have black inner webs. The tail is shorter than the body. The underparts also have pale blue plumage. The chin and the throat feature whitish feathers. The eyes of these birds are dark brown and the long bill, slender legs, and feet are all black.

Female birds are smaller in size. They have a shorter bill than the males.  Feathers on the head and cheeks are a shade of dull blue. The juveniles have a dull gray appearance with blue gray wings, black feet, and a pointed bill.

Pinyon jays have dull blue plumage.

How cute are they?

Pinyon jays look beautiful with their pale blue plumage. They can’t be called cute as they are wild birds living on mostly pine trees. Pinyon Jays are intelligent and have a sharp memory. These smart birds hide seeds from pine cones in large amounts (sometimes thousands) for the winter. They demonstrate the ability to trace these seeds of pinion pines even under the snow cover.

How do they communicate?

Pinyon jays are a noisy group of birds. They live in large flocks with 50 or more members. While eating, these birds are on the lookout for predators and alert the other members with a harsh nasal caw.

How big is a pinyon jay?

Pinyon jays are almost three times smaller than a crow that can grow up to the length of 30 in (76.2 cm).

How fast can a pinyon jay fly?

The flying speed of pinyon jays has not been recorded.

How much does a pinyon jay weigh?

The North American Pinyon jay bird species weighs around 0.19-0.26 lb (90-120 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female pinyon jay has no special names.

What would you call a baby pinyon jay?

A baby pinyon jay is called a nestling or a fledgling.

What do they eat?

The main food of the pinyon jays as the name suggests is pinyon pine seeds. They forage in large flocks picking out seeds from the green pine cones. They eat some on the spot and store some for later. For winter, they bury their store of pine seeds in the ground.

Occasionally, these birds also eat insects flying in the air. They also eat insects like beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, eggs, and young birds of smaller species. The young jays mostly feed on insects. Apart from pinyon pine seeds, these birds feed on seeds of other pine trees, berries, fruits, grains, and nuts.

Are they dangerous?

Pinyon jay birds are not dangerous.

Would they make a good pet?

Pinyon jays are wild birds found in the North American range and do not make good pets.

Did you know...

In case of nest failures due to snowstorms, and predation by mammals, other birds, and reptiles, Pinyon jay pairs build a new nest again in a different site with pinyon pines.  

Are there Blue Jays in New Mexico?

Almost one third of the pinyon jay population of the world lives within the borders of New Mexico. These birds are close relatives of crows and magpies. Their main habitat is near the forests where pinyon pines and junipers grow. In North America, central Oregon, Montana, central Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma are places that have most of the pinyon jay population.

What is the voice quality of pinyon jay bird like?

The shrill alarm calls of pinyon jays sound like a high-pitched rattle and sound like ‘krawk-kraw-krawk’. The frequency increases depending on the threat that has entered their range. The birds make a large variety of sounds to socialize with the young, and the other group members.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Semipalmated sandpiper facts and jandaya parakeet facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our Pinyon Jay coloring pages.



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