Ireland's wildlife logo.

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) -- photograph by Luc Viatour via WikipediaThe jay is one of Ireland’s most striking birds with its brightly coloured pink, black, white and blue plumage. Although they are the most colourful member of the crow family, jays can be surprisingly difficult to see. They are shy, and secretive woodland birds that rarely venture far from cover.

If there are jays in the neighbourhood, however, you will invariably hear them. They are noisy birds and their distinctive harsh screeching, usually given when they’re on the move, tends to betray their presence. When you hear the call look out for a colourful medium-sized bird on the wing through the trees, and particularly the flash of a distinctive white rump. Once you spot a jay there really is no mistaking it for anything else.

Ireland has it’s own distinct race of Jay (Garrulus glandarius hibernicus), which sports slightly darker plumage than its British and continental cousins. Adult birds are generally a pinkish-brown colour with a black tail, white throat and rump and a conspicuous blue patch on each of their black and white wings. A broad black “moustache” extends from the base of the bill down both sides of a white bib, and the white crown is streaked with black. Sexes are similar, and juvenile birds resemble the adults but tend to be fluffier in appearance and are more reddish in colour.

Jays are found in most parts of Ireland wherever there is suitable woodland habitat and are resident all year round. Although they are secretive birds they do tend to become more conspicuous in the autumn, when they often make repeated trips to collect acorns from one area and carry them to cache them elsewhere. The jay’s fondness of acorns and its habit of caching food in this way mean that jays play a vital role in the establishment and maintenance of the few native oak woodlands still left in Ireland. A single bird can bury several thousand acorns each autumn – many of which will be left to germinate.

Although acorns form the bulk of a typical jay’s diet, they are also known to feed on grains, invertebrates, beech nuts and sweet chestnuts. Jays also raid other birds’ nests during the summer if they get the opportunity, taking eggs and young.

In spring gatherings of unpaired jays, dubbed “crow marriages”, sometimes occur. These gatherings, generally consisting of thirty or so birds, offer young jays the chance to pair up. Jays start to breed in their third spring. Courtship involves a lot of posturing with wings and tail outstretched. The nest is typically a root-lined cup of twigs high in a tree in which the female will lay 5-7 pale green eggs with buff speckles on them. The male and female take turns to incubate the eggs, which will hatch at around 16 days. Both parents then work to feed the brood, which takes about 20 days to fledge. The family stay together long after the young leave the nest, with parents continuing to feed their offspring until well into the autumn. Jays only rear one brood of young per year.

Jays have been recorded attacking crows, owls, hawks and other birds that could pose a threat by mobbing them repeatedly whilst mimicking the other birds’ calls to raise the alarm. They also exhibit another unusual behaviour known as “anting”. A jay will sometimes seek out and actively disturb an ants nest. Once the insects are suitably riled the bird will stand in the middle of the disturbed nest allowing the ants to swarm all over its body – a sensation that your average jay seems to thoroughly enjoy!

Enhanced by Zemanta


  • Tara de Montfort

    Had my first sighting of the year in the garden this week. Third year in a row in the garden. Always love seeing them.

  • Frankie Rogers

    I’ve just seen my first ever Irish Jay,I’ve spotted them before in the UK and on the continent, but never here in Ireland, what a thrill.
    After reading about them here,and the thing they do with the ants,I’ve read before of other birds doing this as a type of insecticide wash ,as the ants spray a type of acid which deters ticks and other parasites for the birds.
    Such a beautiful and elusive bird.
    Made my day.

  • Sally Ui Cheidigh

    Could be possible that a Eurasian Jay bird is feeding of my bird feeder here in Spiddal Co Galway

  • Mick Crowley

    Hi, having walked Glasnevin cemetery and the Botanic Gardens for 50 years I saw my first Jay in the cemetery 3 weeks ago. How could I not have seen one before this? See them regularly now – wonderful!
    Rgds Mick.

  • Pat o Mahony

    First jay ever to visit our garden here in cork. Been here for about 2 weeks. Lives on our peanuts. While it seems they are fairly common if secretive it’s our first sighting of one. Took for ever to get a few snap shots. We had to use your website to identify it. Thank you.

  • Michael Elliffe

    Saw my first Jay near Castle lake , Baiieboro, Co. CAVAN today .Beautiful striking bird,. lovely to see.

  • Thanks for this info. I saw one twice recently in Monaghan’s Rossmore Park and was searchingonlineforwhat it could be. It definitely had a bright red streak, rather than pink, but otherwise matches the description of the Jay.

  • Francis McKenna

    Saw a pair of Jays today in county Armagh close to Newtownhamilton. Absolutely beautiful birds. I had never seen them before and actually thought they were more rare than they must be.

  • Eugene Gillies

    I had a single Jay for a few months popping in and out of my Cavan garden. He flies in from a mature nearby oak tree. This morning there are 4 of them investigating my garden. An amazing sight. Thank you for the information.

  • Ann O’ Donnrll

    I saw a jay here in Donegal a few weeks ago but at time wasn’t sure what the beautiful bird was. Then this morning 4-5 were flying about with one feeding on fat balls I had hanging up. Delighted to see them!

  • A pair of jays regularly in our wooded harden in Sandyford this autumn.

  • Martin burke

    Saw 3 jays yesterday at the back of dromoland castle in Clare most colourful


    We have a pair of Jays here at our house on the shores of Lough Corrib in South Mayo. They come each day to feed on the nuts I leave out for them. Really lovely to see. Martin

  • Ray Bassett

    I regularly see Jays in the American Embassy in the Phoenix Park. I saw a pair this afternoon.

  • Joan Wilson

    Delighted to have a pair of jays that come every afternoon to peck at seeds/peanuts under the bird house. On Kildare/Wicklow border and have never before seen such beautiful colorful birds.

  • Siobhan O'Neill

    Saw my first Irish Jay today in woods leading up to the Hell Fire Club, beautiful

  • Margaret O'Riordan

    About three weeks ago I saw my first Jay. Unfortunately he was dead having flown into the glass patio door at the back of the house. Last Monday at 5.45 am I saw a Jay for the second time jackdaw slightly smaller than himself. They were definitely a pair and appeared in the garden several times during that day only. It was wonderful to watch them playing; the Jay swooping over the grass and into the bushes as if hiding and the blackbird flying in and out as if searching for him. I have watched out for them since but not a sign.
    A lovely site Calvin. Thank you.

  • Just spotted our first Jay this morning at 9.25 am..just about to bring our lads to a piano exam!!What a treat, a most beautiful bird!Wasn’t sure what it was until I checked it up on your website.Thank you so much for helping us mark the moment ! Will remember it next time we HOPEFULLY spot him again
    Just as an aside….Any thoughts is he responsible for the phrase..”She’s an awful Jay that one….”A comment passed many years ago by a lovely old neighbour about a girl about to get married , but with nothing organised , or put aside !!In her defence she was salt of the earth…a fine and honourable lady ( R.I.P. )
    A great website ,thanks again!Dara

  • I have a Eurasian Jay in my garden near a wooded area. Striking bird, lovely to watch.

  • Just had a jay actuallyy pecking at one of my upstairs windows. I live facing on to woodland. The unmistakable sound of something tapplng hard on the glass first alerted me. I think it must have been after some spiders or bugs around the frame. I see them quite often where I live which is blessed with an abundance of wildlife, from frogs, squirrels, foxes, hedgehogs, bluetits, woodpigeons, magpies, geese flying over at night heading towards the lough. Blessed indeed!

  • Sean O Mahony

    A pair of jays visit my garden frequently in Summer, and attack my unripe apples. what do you do with a beautiful pest?

  • Seen my very first Jay today whilst walkimg the dog in the woodland section of Redburn Country Park, Co. Down. Stunning looking bird!

  • Saw one of these for the first time this morning in my garden. Very colourful and attractive bird.

  • Sean Conchoille

    Seen my first Jay in Strangford,beautiful creature,am well pleased.????

  • I have never seen the eurasian jay before but this week i have had 2 visit the garden everyday they are so beautiful. I love to watch them and listen to them.

  • Just saw a jay in my garden in clonroche co Wexford , I live around alot of trees and woodland , what a fabulous amazing looking bird 5.5.15 Maureen

  • Just had 2 jays in garden – 1 was having a bath on the patio table in the rain and the second just made 1 sweeping visit. It was my first sighting of these birds in 20 years here in outskirts of Leixlip.

    • Avatar photo

      Lovely birds aren’t they Anne… always great to get them in the garden. They can be very shy and elusive… particularly the Irish sub-species… so it’s a treat to get a good view of them.

  • Hi I think it’s a jay it has a bright red breast and back with blue wings in our garden afew days now

    • Avatar photo

      Hi Roslyn, could be… although a jay would be more pink than red… if you’re on Facebook, and have a photo, head over and post it to the Ireland’s Wildlife page, or send it by email to info @ (without the spaces) and I’ll take a look.

  • Very interesting! Thankyou for posting this detailed info.

  • Have had a Jay at the bottom of the garden for the past couple of days , lodging in the trees that overhang the stream. A welcome addition to our normal residents ! Excellent and informative website , and thanks for posting the information on this colourful bird.

Leave your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.