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Azure-hooded Jay

Cyanolyca cucullata

The Azure-hooded Jay, Cyanolyca cucullata, is a striking bird of the Corvidae family, found in the montane forests of Middle America. Adults exhibit a dark blue plumage with a contrasting black head and upper chest. A distinctive sky blue adorns the back of the head and neck, framed by a white border. Both sexes share this coloration, while juveniles are somewhat duller and lack the white border on their hood. The species measures 11 to 12 inches in length and has dark red eyes, black legs, and bill.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the Azure-hooded Jay, look for its large size and robust frame, which facilitate its frequent flying. The combination of dark blue body, black head, and the unique sky blue hood with a white border are key distinguishing features. The bird's dark red eyes and black bill and legs are also characteristic.

Habitat

This jay prefers subtropical or tropical moist montane forests, often with interspersed pines. It is typically found at the edges of these forests, favoring the middle and higher strata of the canopy, and is most commonly seen in areas where cloud forest is continuous.

Distribution

The Azure-hooded Jay's range extends from southeastern Mexico to western Panama, including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras. It is a resident species within this range, inhabiting humid evergreen forests.

Behaviour

The Azure-hooded Jay is known for its secretive nature, making it a challenge to observe. It travels in small groups of two to ten and may join mixed-species flocks. The species is also known for its preening behavior, which involves mutual feather care among mates. Its crown feathers are often in motion, potentially signaling the condition of the bird.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire includes a loud and bright "eihnk-eihnk" call, typically repeated several times, as well as a nasal "ehr-ehn" or "eh’enk" sound. The alarm and social calls are described as a nasal, querulous "reek!" with an upward or double inflection.

Breeding

Nests are constructed 16.4 to 23 feet above ground, often beside tree trunks. They are made of twigs and thin fibrils without soft lining. The jay may also reuse old nests from other species. Females lay three to four eggs, with both parents tending to the young. The fledging period lasts about 20 days, with the juveniles remaining close to their parents post-fledging.

Similar Species

The Azure-hooded Jay can be confused with its closest relative, the Beautiful Jay, but the latter is found in Colombia and Ecuador and has distinct plumage.

Diet and Feeding

An omnivorous bird, the Azure-hooded Jay feeds on berries, seeds, and small carrion. It has been observed foraging in the canopy and is known to pilfer bait from mammal traps.

Conservation status

The species is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a stable population that is not believed to have declined significantly over the past decade. However, it is considered uncommon in parts of its range, and habitat loss due to deforestation may pose a future threat.

Relationship with Humans

While there are no specific reports of the Azure-hooded Jay impacting human agriculture, related species have been known to damage crops. The jay has been featured on a Mexican postage stamp in 1996, highlighting its cultural significance.

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Azure-hooded Jays on Birda

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