Meet the Gorgeous Green Jay, a Tropical Wonder

Learn where you can see a green jay, plus what the birds look like, what they eat, and more about their calls and nesting behavior.

green jay McAllen, Texas, United StatesMark Theriot / 500px/Getty Images
Green jay in McAllen, Texas

Jays are a familiar sight across much of the United States and Canada, with 10 different jay species spread across the continent. These birds in the corvid family are all striking in their own way, but perhaps none so much as the green jay, a tropical bird found in just one corner of the U.S.

Learn how to identify and attract blue jays.

Green Jay Range and Habitat

Best Birding Hotspots in South TexasCourtesy Rob Ripma
Green jays might be common in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, but that doesn’t stop them from being one of the most sought after species by birders.

If you want to see this unique flier in the U.S., you’ll have to head all the way to the southern tip of Texas. This is the very northern edge of its range, which spreads throughout much of Mexico too. There’s a second population of green jays that live in South America, which some speculate may actually be another species. The two populations are separated by over 900 miles, and have different calls, behaviors, and even coloration.

In all these places, green jays love wooded habitats. In South Texas, they live in thickets of mesquite, sabal palm, and huisache, often along rivers or streams. They also visit citrus plantations.

Look for a California scrub-jay on the west coast.

What Does a Green Jay Look Like?

green jaymilehightraveler/Getty Images
A green jay in Brownsville, Texas

These birds are on the larger side for songbirds, with thick sturdy bills and wingspans up to 15 inches. As their name implies, green jays have bright green bodies, with sharply marked blue and black heads. Their throats are black too, neatly delineated from the pale yellow feathers of their bellies. Tails are green on top and yellow beneath. Their colors are the same year round, and males and females look alike.

Green Jay also known as Inca Jaypchoui/Getty Images
The green jay is known as the Inca jay in South America

In South America, green jays are sometimes called Inca jays. They sport a blue tufted crest between their eyes, their bellies are a brighter yellow, and they have a white or cream patch on the tops of their heads and backs of their necks.

Is the Florida scrub-jay endangered?

What Do Green Jays Eat?

278017744 1 Sara Danta Bnb Bypc 2021, green birdCourtesy Sara Danta
Green jay eating sunflower seeds

Green jays are omniverous, dining on seeds, fruit, insects, small vertebrates, and even the eggs and nestlings of other species. This gregarious species forages in family groups, with each bird checking out their own tree or bush in an area before they all move on to the next foraging ground. Green jays visit bird feeders for seeds, too. In fact, one of the best ways to see them in U.S. is to sit by the feeders at a birding refuge in South Texas, and wait for them to drop in for a snack.

Did you know the blue jay’s range is expanding westward?

Green Jay Mating and Nesting

Green JaysKenCanning/Getty Images
Green jay parents share the work of raising a family

This monogamous species forms a close pair bond, especially during the breeding season. They choose a site and build the nest together. The pair then jointly incubates the eggs and shares parenting duties until the nestlings fledge, in about three weeks. Juveniles spend about a year in the same area as their parents, before the parents urge them off to start their own breeding lives.

Canada jays are curious, cold-hardy birds.

Green Jay Calls

Green Jay (cyanocorax Yncas) In Flight Near Rio Grande City, SouCourtesy Diana Robinson
Green jays have a wingspan up to 15 inches

Jays are incredible mimics, and green jays are no exception. They repeat the calls of hawks and other predators to scare other birds away from food sources. A flock is noisy, in constant communication as they forage for food and warn of potential danger.

Next, learn about the clever and striking Steller’s jay.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find he reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.