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Pinyon jay        Images © Mark A. Chappell

Pinyon jays are unusual among corvids for two reasons:  they are extremely social, and they are excellent at food caching (like their relative, the Clark's nutcracker.   Their name comes from their fondness for the nuts of the pinyon pine, which is a prominent tree in the arid regions they inhabit in the southwestern US (they are also found around other pines, including bristlecone pines at altitudes above 10,000 feet (3300 meters).   Each bird collects and stores hundreds or thousands of pine seeds every year.   Pinyon jays live in close-nit social groups containing up to 100 or more individuals at certain times of the year.   They constantly vocalize with pleasant (but definitely jay-like) calls.   Most of these were photographed on a snowy winter day around a feeding station just east of Great Basin National Park, Nevada.   The feeders were maintained by a friendly couple who let me photograph the visiting birds as they landed in shrubs near the feeders.   The jay in the ponderosa pine was in Riverside County, California.

  • Canon 1D4, 800 mm IS lens plus 1.4X extender, fill-in flash (2011, 2014)