In our area, the typical corvids (avian family that includes crows, ravens, jays, and nutcrackers) are the Western Scrub-Jay and (in winter) the Steller’s Jay. This past weekend, though, we experienced an invasion of Pinyon Jays (PIJAs) (as well as a few Black-billed Magpies probably wandering up in post-breeding dispersal from the Arkansas River valley). Sibley notes that PIJAs (along with Clark’s Nutcrackers) are in a way almost intermediary between jays and crows: For instance, they have long, straight beaks, as do crows, and they too often walk, while other jays always hop.
One morning, we counted at least 70 PIJAs at our feeders. These photos don’t really do their numbers justice, but you can get a bit of an idea. In effect, the area was basically a moving blue blur and the air rang with their maniacal laughs/calls. Click on any photo to see a larger version.
PIJAs are a bit smaller than both Steller’s and Western Scrub-Jays; they are a dusty blue all over, with a lighter throat, very short tails, and really long beaks. For a bit of comparison, below are 2 photos pairing our more typical jays with the PIJAs. On the left is a Steller’s, our only crested jay; note the white forehead stripes. (You’ll need to click on the photo for the larger version to see these more clearly.) That’s typical of the Interior West race; Steller’s Jays further west are more likely to have all dark, almost black heads. On the right, you can see a scrubby in the lower right corner, looking warily at a PIJA–and about 20 of its compatriots behind it, out of the frame.