At a Glance

At dawn in the woods of south Texas, a shrill, explosive pyow! pyow! announces a flock of Brown Jays. These big birds, much larger than our other jays, are almost always in flocks, and their calls can be heard for more than a quarter of a mile; but they can be surprisingly inconspicuous when they stop calling and slip away through the trees. Common in Mexico, Brown Jays crossed into Texas in the 1970s; they are still very scarce and local there, found only on a stretch of the Rio Grande below Falcon Dam.
Crows, Magpies, Jays, Perching Birds
Low Concern
Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets
Direct Flight, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Permanent resident.


14-18" (36-46 cm). Long-tailed and very large. Dark sooty brown, paling to whitish on belly. Juveniles have yellow bills. Compare to Plain Chachalaca.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Tan, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Fingered, Long, Rounded
Tail Shape
Long, Rounded, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A shrill pow! or kreeow!
Call Type
Raucous, Scream


Dense riverside woods. In Texas, found locally in relatively tall, dense, native woods along Rio Grande. In Mexico and Central America, lives in a variety of woodland habitats, especially around clearings, open woods, forest edges.



3-4, sometimes 2-8. Blue-gray, spotted with brown. Incubation is by female (or by multiple females), about 18-20 days; other adults in flock may feed incubating female.


Fed by all adults in flock. Young leave nest about 3-4 weeks after hatching.

Feeding Behavior

Usually forages in flocks. Forages on the ground in dense cover, or in shrubs or trees, hopping about actively through the branches. Visits large flowers to feed on nectar and possibly insects there. Will break open hard nuts or seeds by pounding on them with bill.


Omnivorous. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, also spiders, small lizards, rodents, eggs and nestlings of smaller birds. Also feeds on berries, fruits, seeds, nectar.


Nesting habits in Texas not well known. Farther south, has complicated social system. Each flock has only one nest; eggs in nest may be laid by only one female or by more than one; all adults in flock help to feed young in nest. Nest site is in tree or shrub, usually fairly low in Texas, probably in the range of 15-30' above the ground. Nest may be built by pair or by several adults. Often placed out at fork in horizontal limb. Nest is a bulky cup of sticks and twigs, lined with bark fibers, weeds, other soft material.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Widespread and fairly common in Mexico and Central America. Recent arrival in southern Texas, still very uncommon and local there.