You can only find the elegant Turquoise Jay in three countries in South America. They prefer humid montane forests for their omnivorous diet, and live in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. Jays, however, are a successful and prevalent species and can be found all over the world. There is probably at least one jay with which you are already familiar.
Jays are members of the Corvidae family, which also include crows, magpies, ravens, rooks, nutcrackers, jackdaws, and others. They are everywhere except on the tip of South America and polar ice caps. Considered the most intelligent bird on earth, Corvids are also one of the most intelligent of all animals due to their self-awareness and tool-making skills. There are over 120 species of Corvids and these are classified with many sub-species.
If you have jays regularly around your home, you might have noticed they will bury and later retrieve food. This incredible skill requires highly accurate spatial knowledge, and equally as astonishing: they have a recall memory of up to nine months. Once I watched a jay in my yard exhibiting peculiar behavior, he was looking around for something in particular. One comical moment later he triumphantly pulled a shelled peanut out of a juniper bush!
Although we are familiar with blue-colored jays in the New World, jays are many different colors. The original jay after which all other jays are named is the Eurasian Jay, and it is mostly brown. Wikipedia lists over 46 species of jays in the world, representing many colors.
I am lucky to host two kinds of jays in my California yard, the Western Scrub-Jay and the Steller’s Jay. When I visit the midwestern or eastern states I am equally as dazzled by the striking Blue Jay. Flashy, vocal, and vivacious, the jays are a wonderful bird to have widespread on earth: smart, successful, and beautiful too.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander