Mexican jay

The Mexican jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi) [2] formerly known as the gray-breasted jay, is a New World jay native to the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental, and Central Plateau of Mexico and parts of the southwestern United States. In May 2011, the American Ornithologists' Union voted to split the Mexican jay into two species, one retaining the common name Mexican jay and one called the Transvolcanic jay. The Mexican jay is a medium-sized jay with blue upper parts and pale gray underparts. It resembles the western scrub jay, but has an unstreaked throat and breast. It feeds largely on acorns and pine nuts, but includes many other plant and animal foods in its diet. It has a cooperative breeding system where the parents are assisted by other birds to raise their young. This is a common species with a wide range and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".

Mexican jay
Mexican Jay Aphelocoma wollweberi 3
Mexican jay from Madera Canyon, Arizona,
Aphelocoma wollweberi arizonae.
note bill color not entirely black, this is a character of the Arizona race
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
Genus: Aphelocoma
Species:
A. wollweberi
Binomial name
Aphelocoma wollweberi
(Kaup, 1854)
Subspecies

5, see text

Distribution and habitat

It is native to the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental, and Central Plateau of Mexico as well as eastern Arizona, western New Mexico and western Texas in the United States. Its preferred habitat is montane pine-oak forest.

Description

The Mexican jay is a medium-large (~120 g) passerine similar in size to most other jays, with a blue head, blue-gray mantle, blue wings and tail, and pale gray breast and underparts. The sexes are morphologically similar, and juveniles differ only in having less blue coloration and, in some populations, a pink/pale (instead of black) bill that progressively becomes more black with age (Brown and Horvath 1989). Some field guides misreport this color as yellow because the pale bill becomes yellow in museum study skins. The iris is brown and legs are black. It is most readily distinguished from the similar western scrub jay by the plain (unstreaked) throat and breast, and the mantle contrasting less with the head and wings. Its range somewhat overlaps with the western scrub-jays, but, where they co-occur, the two species seem to show ecological and morphological character displacement (Curry et al. 2002).

Ecology

In the winter, the Mexican jay's diet consists mainly of acorns and pine nuts, which are stored in the autumn. However, they are omnivorous in all seasons and their diet includes a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including invertebrates, small amphibians and reptiles, and birds' eggs and nestlings (McCormack and Brown 2008).

It has a cooperative breeding system similar to that of the related Florida scrub-jay, with several birds helping at a nest; these "helpers" are usually immature offspring of the dominant pair from the previous 1–2 years, but also include apparently unrelated flock members.

Systematics

A recent decision by the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list Committee elevated some populations of the Mexican jay to a separate species, called the Transvolcanic jay (A. ultramarina), based on diagnosable phenotypic differences in plumage and morphology, millions of years of genetic divergence and no evidence for interbreeding with Mexican jays. The Transvolcanic jay inhabits montane forest in the Transvolcanic Belt of central Mexico. Populations to the north retained the common name Mexican jay, but the Latin name changed to A. wollweberi. This was because the type specimen was a Transvolcanic jay, meaning that this species had precedent for the original Latin name A. ultramarina.

Thus, as of this decision, there are now five described subspecies of Mexican jays that are divided into three divergent groups (see below). Marked differences in size, color, vocalizations, and genetics have led some authors to consider at least two of these groups as separate species (East and West; Navarro-Sigüenza and Peterson 2004). The three groups inhabit three distinct mountainous regions in northern and central Mexico. Genetic breaks in mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA occur abruptly between the groups, indicating some barriers to genetic exchange (McCormack et al. 2008). Size variation among the groups does not always follow Bergmann's rule, with more southerly populations in the Sierra Madre Oriental being larger than populations to the north. Mexican jays do not seem to follow Gloger's rule either, as populations in arid habitat in southwestern Texas are very blue. On the other hand, Mexican jays in Arizona - also arid habitat - have a washed-out appearance, in accordance with Gloger's rule.

Western group
Sierra Madre Occidental in northern [Jalisco] north to central Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Southern and eastern limits in Jalisco deserve further study. Juveniles have a pink/pale base to the otherwise black bill for up to two years. Eggs are pale green-blue and unspeckled, unlike Eastern group where speckled eggs are common.

  • Aphelocoma wollweberi gracilis
E Nayarit and N Jalisco
Smallest of the Western subspecies with a distinct, high-pitched vocalization.
  • Aphelocoma wollweberi wollweberi
Durango and Zacatecas
Intermediate in size.
  • Aphelocoma wollweberi arizonae
Sonora and Chihuahua north to Arizona and New Mexico, United States
Largest and most pale of all subspecies.

Eastern group
Sierra Madre Oriental in Nuevo León and W Tamaulipas north to Texas (Chisos Mountains). Juveniles have an all-black exterior to the bill after fledging, but roof of inner upper mandible can remain partially white for up to two years. Reports of less social behavior compared to other groups are over-stated and credible accounts of cooperative breeding (Ligon and Husar 1974) and large flock sizes (Bhagabati and Horvath 2006) exist. Plain, speckled, and even white eggs have been observed in a single study area (McCormack and Berg 2010).

  • Aphelocoma wollweberi couchii
Smaller than preceding. Population of latter species distinguishable by more contrasting markings and ecological preferences (lowland birds). Egg color may range from plain blue to nile blue with pale brownish speckling, most heavy on blunt half. Gives rattle call similar to Cyanocitta and western scrub-jays.

Central Plateau group
Central Plateau in Queretaro, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi, and eastern Jalisco. Similar to Eastern group but larger in most features. Distinguishable in morphology and plumage in ~80% of specimens. There is an area of apparent hybridization in San Luis Potosi that deserves study.

  • Aphelocoma wollweberi potosina

Footnotes

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Aphelocoma wollweberi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Etymology: Aphelocoma, from Latinized Ancient Greek apheles- (from ἀφελής-) "simple" + Latin coma (from Greek kome κόμη) "hair", in reference to the lack of striped or banded feathers in this genus, compared to other jays. wollweberi, Name: "collector Mr. Wollweber".

References

  • Bhagabati, N. K. & Horvath, E. G. (2006): Mexican jay social group size varies with habitat in northeastern Mexico. Journal of Field Ornithology 77: 104-110.
  • Brown, J. L. & Horvath, E. G. (1989): Geographic Variation of Group Size, Ontogeny, Rattle Calls, and Body Size in Aphelocoma ultramarina. Auk 106: 124-128.
  • Curry, Robert L.; Peterson, A. Townsend & Langen, T.A. (2002): Western Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma californica). In: Poole, A. & Gill, F. (eds.): The Birds of North America 712. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA & American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. Online version, retrieved 2007-FEB-25. doi:10.2173/bna.712 (requires subscription)
  • Ligon, J. D. & Husar, S. L. 1974 Notes on the behavioral ecology of Couch's Mexican jay. Auk 91: 841-843.
  • Madge, Steve & Burn, Hilary (1994): Crows and jays: a guide to the crows, jays and magpies of the world. A&C Black, London. ISBN 0-7136-3999-7
  • McCormack, JE & Brown, JL. (2008) Mexican jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina). In The Birds of North America Online (A Poole, ed.). Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology: Ithaca, NY.
  • McCormack, JE & Berg, EC (2010): Small-scale divergence in egg color along an elevation gradient in the Mexican Jay: a condition-dependent response? Auk 127: 35-43.
  • McCormack, John E., Peterson, A.T, Bonaccorso, Elisa, & Smith, Thomas B. (2008): Speciation in the highlands of Mexico: Genetic and phenotypic divergence in the Mexican jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina). Molecular Ecology 17: 2505-2521.
  • Navarro-Sigüenza, A. & Peterson, A. (2004) An alternative species taxonomy of the birds of Mexico. Biota Neotropica 4.
  • Pitelka, Frank A. (1951): Speciation and ecological distribution in American jays of the genus Aphelocoma. University of California Publications in Zoology 50: 195-464.
  • Rice, Nathan H.; Martínez-Meyer, Enrique & Peterson, A. Townsend (2003): Ecological niche differentiation in the Aphelocoma jays: a phylogenetic perspective. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 80(3): 369–383. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8312.2003.00242.x PDF fulltext
Aphelocoma

The passerine birds of the genus Aphelocoma

include the scrub jays and their relatives. They are New World jays found in Mexico, western Central America and the western United States, with an outlying population in Florida. This genus belongs to the group of New World (or "blue") jays–possibly a distinct subfamily–which is not closely related to other jays, magpies or treepies. They live in open pine-oak forests, chaparral, and mixed evergreen forests.

Crypsirina

Crypsirina is a small genus of long-tailed passerine birds in the crow and jay family, Corvidae. The two species are highly arboreal and rarely come to the ground to feed.

They are

The racket-tailed treepie, formerly placed in Dendrocitta, is an all-black Southeast Asian species. The grey and black hooded treepie is endemic to Myanmar.

Cyanocitta

Cyanocitta is a genus of birds in the family Corvidae, a family which contains the crows, jays and magpies. Established by Hugh Edwin Strickland in 1845, it contains the following species:

The name Cyanocitta is a combination of the Greek words kuanos, meaning "dark blue" and kitta, meaning "jay".

Cyanolyca

Cyanolyca is a genus of small jays found in humid highland forests in southern Mexico, Central America and the Andes in South America. All are largely blue and have a black mask. They also possess black bills and legs and are skulking birds. They frequently join mixed-species flocks of birds.

Cyanopica

Cyanopica is a genus of magpie in the family Corvidae. They belong to a common lineage with the genus Perisoreus.

Emory Peak

Emory Peak, located in Big Bend National Park, is the highest peak in the Chisos Mountains. and the highest in Brewster County. The peak is named for William H. Emory, the chief surveyor of the U.S. Boundary Survey team of 1852. From the Chisos Basin the peak appears to be a minor ridge, while the summit of Casa Grande, one mile closer, seems to be much taller. From the west, Emory Peak is clearly visible as a point slightly higher than most of the mountain range.

The peak can be reached by a moderate hike on a well-marked path across steep rocky terrain with an elevation gain of approximately 2,500 feet (760 m). The Emory Peak Trail is about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long. The trail is reached by climbing the Pinnacles Trail 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the Chisos Basin trailhead. Once at the base there is a semi-technical rock scramble to navigate before reaching the summit. No gear is needed for this climb although hikers should take great care. High-desert flora and fauna including alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana), pinyon pine (Pinus cembroides), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.), Mexican jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi), sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum), and Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) may be seen along the trail. There are signs warning of mountain lions and bears.

The view from the top takes in most of the northern section of the park and a good portion of the Chisos range to the south. One surprise at the top, during the right season, is the population of lady bugs on the summit. There are solar panels, radio transmission equipment, and antennae at the top.

Flores crow

The Flores crow (Corvus florensis) is a species of bird in the family Corvidae.

It is endemic to Indonesia.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forest and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Garrulus

Garrulus is a genus of Old World jays, passerine birds in the family Corvidae.

Jay

Jays are several species of medium-sized, usually colorful and noisy, passerine birds in the crow family, Corvidae. The names jay and magpie are somewhat interchangeable, and the evolutionary relationships are rather complex. For example, the Eurasian magpie seems more closely related to the Eurasian jay than to the East Asian blue and green magpies, whereas the blue jay is not closely related to either.

List of birds of the Sierra Madre Occidental

This is a list of birds whose range includes, at least in part, the Sierra Madre Occidental, a mountain range in western Mexico and the extreme southwest of the United States.

Bright-rumped attila, Attila spadiceus

Lazuli bunting, Passerina amoena

Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus

Mexican chickadee, Poecile sclateri

American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus

Blue-hooded euphonia, Euphonia elegantissima

Cordilleran flycatcher, Empidonax occidentalis

Hammond's flycatcher, Empidonax hammondii

Pine flycatcher, Empidonax affinis

Evening grosbeak, Coccothraustes vespertinus

Yellow grosbeak, Pheucticus chrysopeplus

Rusty-crowned ground-sparrow, Melozone kieneri

Blue-throated hummingbird, Lampornis clemenciae

Broad-tailed hummingbird, Selasphorus platycercus

Magnificent hummingbird, Eugenes fulgens

White-eared hummingbird, Hylocharis leucotis

Mexican jay, Aphelocoma ultramarina

White-tailed kite, Elanus leucurus

Black-throated magpie-jay, Calocitta colliei

Purple martin, Progne subis

Buff-collared nightjar, Antrostomus ridgwayi

Pygmy nuthatch, Sitta pygmaea

Elf owl, Micrathene whitneyi

Flammulated owl, Otus flammeolus

Spotted owl, Strix occidentalis

Whiskered screech-owl, Megascops trichopsis

Thick-billed parrot, Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha

Western wood pewee, Contopus sordidulus

Band-tailed pigeon, Patagioenas fasciata

Elegant quail, Callipepla douglasii

Montezuma quail, Cyrtonyx montezumae

Eared quetzal, Euptilotis neoxenus

Painted redstart, Myioborus pictus

Townsend's solitaire, Myadestes townsendi

Five-striped sparrow, Amphispiza quinquestriata

Rufous-crowned sparrow, Aimophila ruficeps

Plain-capped starthroat, Heliomaster constantii

Vaux's swift, Chaetura vauxi

White-throated swift, Aeronautes saxatalis

Flame-colored tanager, Piranga bidentata

Hepatic tanager, Piranga flava

Red-headed tanager, Piranga erythrocephala

Bridled titmouse, Baeolophus wollweberi

Spotted towhee, Pipilo maculatus

Hutton's vireo, Vireo huttoni

Plumbeous vireo, Vireo plumbeus

Yellow-green vireo, Vireo flavoviridis

Golden-browed warbler, Basileuterus belli

Grace's warbler, Setophaga graciae

Hermit warbler, Setophaga occidentalis

Red warbler, Cardellina ruber

Red-faced warbler, Cardellina rubrifrons

Yellow warbler, Setophaga petechia

Acorn woodpecker, Melanerpes formicivorus

Arizona woodpecker, Picoides arizonae

Magpie

Magpies are birds of the Corvidae (crow) family. The black and white Eurasian magpie is widely considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world and one of only a few non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. In addition to other members of the genus Pica, corvids considered as magpies are in the genera Cissa.

Magpies of the genus Pica are generally found in temperate regions of Europe, Asia and western North America, with populations also present in Tibet and high elevation areas of India, i.e. Ladakh (Kargil and Leh) and Pakistan. Magpies of the genus Cyanopica are found in East Asia and also the Iberian peninsula. The birds called magpies in Australia are not related to the magpies in the rest of the world (see Australian magpie).

Magpie-jay

The magpie-jays are a genus, Calocitta, of the family Corvidae (crow-like birds) native to the southern part of North America. Sometimes placed in the genus Cyanocorax. The two known species are known to form hybrids.

Nutcracker (bird)

The nutcrackers (Nucifraga) are a genus of three species of passerine bird, in the family Corvidae, related to the jays and crows.

The genus Nucifraga was introduced by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 with the spotted nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) as the type species. The genus name is a New Latin translation of German Nussbrecher, "nut-breaker".

Pinus cembroides

Pinus cembroides, also known as pinyon pine, Mexican pinyon, Mexican nut pine, and Mexican stone pine, is a pine in the pinyon pine group, native to western North America. It grows in areas with low levels of rainfall and its range extends southwards from Arizona, Texas and New Mexico in the United States into Mexico. It typically grows at altitudes between 1,600 and 2,400 metres (5,200 and 7,900 ft). It is a small pine growing to about 20 m (66 ft) with a trunk diameter of up to 50 cm (20 in). The seeds are large and form part of the diet of the Mexican jay and Abert's squirrel. They are also collected for human consumption, being the most widely used pine nut in Mexico. This is a common pine with a wide range and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".

Transvolcanic jay

The Transvolcanic jay (Aphelocoma ultramarina) is a medium-large (~120 g) passerine bird similar in size to most other jays, with a blue head, blue-gray mantle, blue wings and tail, gray breast and underparts. The sexes are morphologically similar, and juveniles differ only in having less blue coloration. The iris is brown and legs are black. It is most readily distinguished by the plain (unstreaked) throat and breast, and the mantle contrasting less with the head and wings.

Treepie

The treepies comprise four closely related genera (Dendrocitta, Crypsirina, Temnurus and Platysmurus) of long-tailed passerine birds in the family Corvidae. There are 11 species of treepie. Treepies are similar to magpies. Most treepies are black, white, gray or brown. They are found in Southeast Asia. They live in tropical forests. They are highly arboreal and rarely come to the ground to feed.

Urocissa

Urocissa is a genus of birds in the family Corvidae, a family which contains the crows, jays and magpies. Established by Jean Cabanis in 1850, it contains the following species:

Urocissa is a combination of the Greek words for "tail" (oura) and "magpie" (kissa).

Woodhouse's scrub jay

Woodhouse's scrub jay (Aphelocoma woodhouseii), is a species of scrub jay native to western North America, ranging from southeastern Oregon and southern Idaho to central Mexico. Woodhouse's scrub jay was once considered the same species as the California scrub jay and the island scrub jay and collectively called the western scrub jay. Prior to that it was also considered the same species as the Florida scrub jay; the taxon was then called simply the scrub jay. Woodhouse's scrub jay is nonmigratory and can be found in urban areas, where it can become tame and will come to bird feeders. While many refer to scrub jays as "blue jays", the blue jay is a different species of bird entirely. Woodhouse's scrub jay is named for the American naturalist and explorer Samuel Washington Woodhouse.

Extant species of family Corvidae

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