Land Bird Conservation Plan Colorado  

Executive Summary
Overview of Colorado
Physiographic Region 36
Physiographic Region 62
Physiographic Region 87

  • Cliff/Rock
  • Lowland Riparian
  • Mountain Shrubland
  • Pinyon-Juniper
  • Ponderosa Pine
  • Sagebrush Shrubland
  • Semidesert Shrubland
  • Wetlands

  • Implementation Strategies
    Literature Cited

    Physiographic Region 87: Colorado Plateau

    Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)

    Associated Species: Other species that may use habitats in a similar way and/or respond similarly to threats, management, and conservation activities include Ash-throated Flycatcher, Juniper Titmouse, and Bewick's Wren.

    Distribution: Pinyon Jays range the semiarid lands of the West. The Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas map shows them south of a diagonal line drawn from the northwest corner to the southeast corner of the state (Kingery 1998).

    Habitat Requirements: Pinyon Jays are pinyon and juniper obligates in Colorado and over most of their range. They nest commonly at the lower elevations of pinyon-juniper woodlands, often where junipers dominate. A few nest in ponderosa pine. They prefer extensive stands far from high human activity.

    Ecology: For these year-round residents, courtship and nesting begins in the winter. Everything is a group activity. Colonies consist of several dozen pairs, usually with one nest per tree, but sometimes with up to three. They build deep, bulky nests of twigs and shredded bark in the bottom half of the tree canopy, often on the south sides of trees. The colony ranges up to 13 km (8 mi) to find food for the nestlings. This communal species seems relatively safer from predation and more vulnerable to human intrusion than most other pinyon-juniper species. Common Ravens may be the primary nestling predators. Pinyon Jays eat many foods, but pinyon nuts and juniper cones are their staples. Their harvest and storage system allows the use of these foods well beyond the season of ripeness. They typically locate caches on the south sides of trees, where the snow melts the soonest (Balda and Bateman 1971).

    Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: Older pinyon and juniper trees produce the majority of the cones and berries. Manage for large and old age-class trees for high pinyon nut and juniper berry production.

    Pinyon Jays are secretive during the nesting season and will not nest near human activity. Consider this jay's nesting sites to be road density sensitive.

    Status and Reasons for Concern: Pinyon Jays are indicators of healthy pinyon-juniper woodlands. The Colorado Plateau has high area responsibility for Pinyon Jay, with more than 20% of its range falling within the physiographic area, and the species has a high overall priority ranking. Partners in Flight in the Intermountain West states uniformly consider it a priority species. The BBS results for 1969-1996 for Physiographic Area 87 do not show a statistically significant annual rate of change (P = 0.58, n = 45 routes). Pinyon Jays were present on an average of 47.84 (SE = 4.97) of the BBS routes run in Physiographic Area 87 in Colorado during 1988-1997, at an average abundance of 9.54 (SE = 2.15) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year was 11.4 (SE = 1.55). This species is monitored by MCB with tracking transects.

    Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon results of the BBS and MCB monitoring programs. To do this, a target is set to maintain an average of at least one occurrence per 75 points or at least five birds per 100 points on all MCB pinyon-juniper woodland transects where they have ever occurred.

    Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Balda and Bateman 1971, Kingery 1998.

    Copyright 2000 - Colorado Partners In Flight. All Rights Reserved. Webmaster - Scott Hutchings