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MEXICAN JAY

BLUE FEATHERS AND THE MEXICAN JAY

MEXICAN JAY

Introduction

The Mexican Jay, scientifically known as Aphelocoma wollweberi, is a striking and sociable bird species predominantly found in the oak woodlands of the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. In Bisbee, Arizona, situated in the Mule Mountains, these birds are a common and delightful sight, contributing significantly to the region's unique biodiversity.

Physical Description

Size and Build

Mexican Jays are medium-sized birds, typically measuring about 11 to 12 inches in length. They exhibit a robust build with a rounded body, a strong, straight bill, and a long tail that often appears slightly rounded at the end.

Coloration and Markings

One of the most notable features of the Mexican Jay is its vibrant plumage. They possess a deep azure blue head, wings, and tail, contrasting beautifully with their pale gray underparts. The throat is also a lighter shade, often appearing whitish. Young Mexican Jays are generally duller in color and gain their full vibrant hues as they mature.

Habitat and Range

Preferred Habitat

Mexican Jays in Bisbee are primarily found in oak woodlands, which provide both food and nesting opportunities. They are adaptable birds, often seen in mixed woodlands, especially those dominated by oaks and pinyon pines.

Range in Bisbee

In Bisbee, these birds are mainly concentrated in the Mule Mountains, a region characterized by its rich oak woodlands and higher elevations. This setting offers an ideal habitat for the Mexican Jays, supporting their feeding and breeding behaviors.

Behavior and Social Structure

Flocking and Social Interaction

Mexican Jays are known for their highly social nature. They typically live in flocks of 5 to 25 birds, which may include multiple breeding pairs along with non-breeding individuals. These flocks exhibit complex social structures and often engage in cooperative behaviors, like jointly defending territories and mobbing predators.

Vocalizations

The vocalizations of Mexican Jays are varied and include a range of calls. Their most common call is a harsh, scolding "shack-shack-shack." They also produce softer, more melodious calls, particularly during social interactions within their flocks.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Mexican Jays are omnivorous, feeding on a wide variety of foods. Their diet primarily consists of acorns, which they often store in caches for later consumption. They also eat insects, fruits, seeds, and occasionally small vertebrates. In Bisbee, their foraging activities significantly contribute to the dispersal of oak seeds, aiding in forest regeneration.

Breeding and Nesting

Nesting Habits

Nesting typically occurs in trees, with nests constructed from twigs and lined with finer materials. These nests are often located at varying heights, sometimes quite high in the canopy.

Breeding Season and Offspring

In Bisbee, the breeding season for Mexican Jays usually begins in early spring. These birds are cooperative breeders, meaning that non-breeding birds in the flock often assist in raising the young. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which are incubated for about 16 to 18 days. The chicks are altricial, requiring extensive care before they fledge at around three weeks of age.

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