Conservation status Widespread and fairly common in Mexico and Central America. Recent arrival in southern Texas, still very uncommon and local there.
Family Crows, Magpies, Jays
Habitat 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.
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.

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.


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


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


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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Download Our Bird Guide App


Permanent resident.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

Learn more

Songs and Calls

A shrill pow! or kreeow!
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.