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Fr: Geai lancéolé
All : Strichelhäher
Esp: Arrendajo Cabecinegro
Ital: Ghiandaia lanceolata
Nd: Strepengaai
Sd: Svarthuvad nötskrika


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Black-headed Jay
Garrulus lanceolatus

Passeriforme Order – Corvidae Family

Length: 33 cm
Weight: 85-105 g

The Black-headed Jay is fairly similar to the Eurasian Jay, and both belong to the genus Garrulus.
This species is confined to the W Himalayan forested slopes.  

The adult has black head with elongated feathers on crown, forming a crest often conspicuous during displays. Chin and throat are black and heavily streaked white. The plumage is pinkish-grey overall, including neck sides and hindneck. In duller light, the colour becomes greyer.
On the underparts, belly and undertail-coverts are rather pink than grey.  

On the upperwing, lesser and median coverts are black, whereas primary coverts are white. We can see blue and black barred pattern on secondary flight feathers, with wider black subterminal bar and white tip. Tertials are pale grey, also with wide subterminal black bar and white tip. Primary flight feathers are dark grey with bluish outer webs and narrow whitish edges.
The tail is blue, finely barred black, with slightly wider subterminal black bar and white-tipped rectrices.

The bill is pale grey to pale horn. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are bluish-grey.

Both sexes are similar.
The juvenile is duller than adult, with browner plumage and shorter crest.

The Black-headed Jay’s typical call is a rasping “skaaaak”, slightly thinner than that of the Eurasian Jay. It also gives a similar but higher-pitched mewing call.
The song is quiet and often inaudible in wild, but in captivity, subdued songs of mixed sounds such as bubbling, whistling, mewing and mimicry are reported.

The Black-headed Jay frequents mixed oak-pine and oak-cedar forests and woodlands. It usually prefers more open forest than the Eurasian Jay which is often hidden among dense vegetation.       
The Black-headed Jay also frequents clearing and village edges, and can be found in shrubs on hill slopes and in degraded forest.
This species breeds between 1500 and 4000 metres of elevation, and performs altitudinal movements in winter, reaching lower regions.

The Black-headed Jay occurs in E Afghanistan and W Himalayas, across N Pakistan and Kashmir, E to Nepal.

The Black-headed Jay, like numerous Corvids, is omnivorous and feeds primarily on invertebrates and small vertebrates during the breeding season. But it also consumes seeds and berries in autumn and winter. Around villages, it often scavenges discarded food scraps. It is fond of acorns which are usually stored for later use.

The Black-headed Jay is often seen in pairs or small groups. However, during winter, flocks of up to 30-40 birds can be associated with other Corvids. It forages mainly in open situations, and alongside mixed-species groups.
It often perches on exposed rocks outcrops, treetops or large bushes.

Communication between Corvidsincludes visual and vocal signals. Vocal messages vary only in number of calls. Visual communication is based on various displays and postures such as sleeked or fluffed out plumage, head held up and bill pointing upwards, and some other behaviour. But displays have different functions according to the moment and the season.

In a pair, the male often feeds the female during the laying. During courtship displays, it moves around the female. They are monogamous with strong pair-bonds, maintained during the year, and even for life. The territory is defended by both sexes.

The Black-headed Jay is resident throughout its range, with some altitudinal movements during winter.

The Black-headed Jay has rather laboured flight with frequent wingbeats, due to the relatively short wings.

The breeding season occurs in spring, with eggs in April-May.
This species breeds solitary, often near the forest edge or on hillsides. Both adults build a deep, loose foundation of twigs. The deep cup is lined with rootlets, grass stems and rhizoids similar to horsehair. This structure is placed 5-7 metres above the ground, in tree fork near the top of small tree (oak) or in large shrub.

The female lays 3-4 eggs and incubates alone during 16 days. The male feeds her at nest during this period. The chicks fledge three weeks after hatching.

The Black-headed Jay is omnivorous, but it feeds mainly on invertebrates and small vertebrates such as small lizards, eggs and nestlings of small birds, during the breeding season. In autumn and winter, it consumes seeds and berries, including pine seeds. It usually scavenges discarded food scraps near villages. It is fond of acorns and stores them for later consumption.

The Black-headed Jay is locally common in W Himalayas, and relatively common throughout the range. Populations appear stable and the species is not currently threatened.