Pinyon Jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) are a western jay found in pinyon pine habitat. Some important breeding sites include El Malpais National Monument and National Conservation Area found in New Mexico and Desert National Wildlife Range and Great Basin National Park found in Nevada.
Forty years worth of breeding bird survey data show a more than 80 percent decline of this beautiful corvid. Population estimates as of 2004 were around 4.1 million birds, a respectable number. The biggest threat to Pinyon Jays is habitat destruction, including pinyon-juniper, chaparral and other scrubby habitats.
Partners in Flight bird conservation plans in many of the states Pinyon Jays are found have identified it as a high priority species, however, this species is poorly monitored and has little focused conservation efforts in place. Much is needed to reverse this downward trend including:
- Increase pinyon-juniper habitat acreage within the jay’s breeding range
- Decrease habitat that is being degraded by cattle grazing
- Conduct more surveys of Pinyon Jay breeding populations
A good place to start for conserving Pinyon Jays and other declining birds is by checking out Birder’s Conservation Handbook: 100 North American Birds at Risk
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Here is a digiscoped photo of a Pinyon Jay that I took through the windows of our den, in Cedar Crest, New Mexico. The caption has a link to a photo comparison of the heads of Pinyon and Scrub Jays.