Ultramarine Jay

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Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Scrub Jay (see also Florida Jay).]

[Aphelocoma coerulescens.]


Although the Ultramarine Jay has been described by Mr. SWAINSON, in his Synopsis of the Birds of Mexico, under the name of Garrulus sordidus, I retain the specific name "ultramarinus," previously given by the Prince of MUSIGNANO. The only observations respecting its habits that I am aware have been made, are the following, for which I am indebted to my friend THOMAS NUTTALL.

"Early in October, on arriving in the forests of the Columbia, near Fort Vancouver, an establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company, we saw in the same situations with the Steller's Jay, the present species. Its habits are much like those of the Common Jay. It usually flies out to the tops of the lofty pines, jerks its tail, and perches playfully on some extreme branch, where it utters at times, as if excited by petulant anger, a strong whoit, woit, woit, woit, after which expression it emits a sort of recognition-call at short intervals, twee, and sometimes a shorter 'twee 'twee. When much pursued, it sits still in the concealing shade of the lofty branches on which it seeks refuge. It feeds on insects, acorns broken up, and probably pine seeds. They appear to associate in roving families throughout the fall and winter, like the other species, seldom if ever associating with the more Common Steller's Jay, though now and then perhaps in the same tree. It is a graceful, active, and rather shy species, flying out straight from tree to tree, remarkable by its long tail and rather short wings; and its note is much less harsh and loud than that of Steller's Jay. They breed in the dark pine woods, probably, where we so frequently saw them alight, and on the 15th of June they were feeding their fully fledged young, two of which I pursued for some time, but they skulked so effectually as to escape me after a long and doubtful chase. The young had a great predominance of grey on the back. The same species also extends into Upper California."


ULTRAMARINE JAY, Corvus ultramarinus, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iv. p. 456.

Bill shorter than the head, strong, straight, compressed toward the end; upper mandible with the dorsal line declinate and convex toward the end, the sides sloping and becoming convex toward the tip, which is declinate, thin-edged and obtuse, the edges sharp and overlapping, with a slight notch; lower mandible straight, the angle rather short and broad, the dorsal outline ascending and slightly convex, the sides convex, the edges sharp and directed outwards, the tip narrow. Nostrils basal, roundish, covered by the reversed bristly feathers.

Head large, ovate; eyes of moderate size; neck rather short; body compact. Legs of moderate length, strong; tarsus much compressed, with seven large anterior scutella, and two long plates behind, meeting so as to form a sharp edge. Toes stout, with large scutella, the outer adherent as far as its second joint to the middle toe; first very strong; inner toe shorter than outer, third much longer. Claws strong, arched, compressed, acute.

Plumage full, soft, blended. Stiff feathers with disunited barbs over the nostrils, the longest scarcely extending to a third of the length of the bill; at the base of the upper mandible several longish slender bristles. Wings of moderate length, convex, and much rounded; the first quill very short, an inch and two-twelfths shorter than the second, which is eight-twelfths shorter than the third, the fourth three-twelfths longer than the third, and a twelfth and a half shorter than the fifth, which is the longest, but scarcely exceeds the sixth. Tail long, much rounded, of twelve rather narrow, rounded and acuminate feathers, of which the lateral is an inch and a quarter shorter than the longest.

Bill and feet brownish-black. Iris hazel. Upper part of the head, sides and hind part of the neck, wings, upper tail-coverts, and tail, light blue; back light greyish-brown, the feathers of the rump whitish and tinged with blue at the end; the inner webs of the quills dusky; the tail transversely undulated, and having the appearance of being faintly barred with a darker tint. A white band over the eye formed by the tips of the feathers there; the cheeks dusky; the fore neck greyish-white, faintly streaked with dusky; and bounded below by a narrow semilunar band of light blue continuous with that of the neck. The lower parts are pale purplish-grey, passing into white on the abdomen; lower tail-coverts tinged with blue.

Length to end of tail 12 inches; bill along the ridge 1 (1 1/2)/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 4/12; wing from flexure 5 8/12; tail 6 2/12; tarsus 1 8/12; hind toe (7 1/2)/12 its claw 7/12; middle toe 1 1/12, its claw (6 1/2)/12.

The female is considerably smaller, but resembles the male in colour.

Length to end of tail 11 1/2 inches; wing from flexure 5 3/12; tail 6 2/12; tarsus 1 7/12; middle toe 1, its claw (6 1/2)/12.

The resemblance which this species bears to the Florida Jay is so close that one might readily confound the two. That species, however, is distinguishable by its smaller size and its more rounded tail; by its having a band of whitish across the forehead and extended over the eye, where it is not in dots as in the Ultramarine Jay.

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