Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Dave Menke
Photo Courtesy of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The pinyon jay, Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus, occurs throughout much of the western United States, and is a common bird of the pinyon-juniper forests of Utah. Pinyon jays are often found in loose flocks that consist of multiple breeding pairs and the offspring of those pairs from previous nesting seasons. Each flock has an established home range, but may become somewhat nomadic and move long distances when food is scarce.

The diet of the pinyon jay consists primarily of pinyon and other pine seeds, but also includes berries, small seeds, grains, and insects. At times, pinyon jays may also eat bird eggs and hatchlings. When pine seeds are abundant, flocks may communally cache large numbers of seeds. The timing and location of breeding is tied to pine seed availability. Nests are built in loose colonies, and both parents participate in nest building. Nests are located in trees, usually conifers, five to thirty feet off the ground. They are constructed of twigs and stems, and are lined with fine plant material and hair. The clutch size is usually three or four eggs, but sometimes as many as six eggs are laid. Females incubate the eggs, and males bring food to the nests. The eggs hatch after 15 to 17 days; the young are tended by both parents, and sometimes by the young of previous nestings. Young leave the nest after about three weeks, but continue to be fed by the parents and other members of the flock.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.