Sichuan Jay
(Perisoreus internigrans)
This black and grey jay inhabits the coniferous forests of the mountains in China. For the last forty years, the Sichuan Jay’s habitat has been cleared and heavily logged and it is now is severely fragmented and degraded. This has had serious consequences for the species, which has been classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Few studies have focused on the jay and this has hampered conservation efforts. In some parts of China the range of the jay overlaps with that of the Giant Panda and this has indirectly afforded the species some protection from conservation efforts focused on the panda’s habitat. Almost no measures have been made to specifically protect the Sichuan Jay.
Urgent Conservation Actions
Surveys are needed to determine the species distribution and population size. Habitat protection laws need to be strengthened and upheld.
Endemic to the montane forest of west and central China.
The plumage of the Sichuan Jay gives it the appearance of being coated in grey soot, and has given rise to its other name – the Sooty Jay.
Media from ARKive
Arkive image - Sichuan jay perched on a twig
Arkive image - Sichuan jay perched on a branch
Arkive image - Sichuan jay feeding on berries
Arkive image - Sichuan jay feeding on larva in spruce forest
Arkive image - Sichuan jay in flight showing plumage
Evolutionary Distinctiveness
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Corvidae
The family, Corvidae, is a large family of some 120 species including the choughs, crows, jackdaws, jays, magpies, nutcrackers, ravens, rooks and treepies. Historically, there has been much debate over the relationships between species and genera within the Corvidae and the position of the family within the avian class. What became apparent was that the corvids originated from Australasia and then colonised many other countries in the world. There are three groups of jays in the family: the Old World jays, the New World jays and the grey jays. The Sichuan Jay belongs to the genus Perisoreus, which, along with the Siberian Jay (P. infaustus) and the Gray Jay, (P. Canadensis), make up the grey jays.
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30 cm
The head of the Sichuan Jay is black, with a short, yellow bill and black eyes. The rest of the plumage on the body is a sooty grey colour. The tail is long, comparable with the body length. Their calls consist of high, repeated kyip sounds and a rising mewing sound.
It feeds on berries and fruit, as well as invertebrates. It is social, typically forming groups of around six, but sometimes with over ten individuals. Clutches are produced between March and April. Studies have shown that the jay exhibits a degree of group chick breeding with non-breeding individuals helping to feed young.
The Sichuan Jay is found in montane, old-growth coniferous forests made up of spruce, fir and rhododendrons, typically with a little understorey vegetation. Their elevational range is between 3,000-4,270m in altitude.
This species of jay is endemic to China. It is known from four areas: south Gansu, south-east Qinghai, west Sichuan and east Tibet
Population Estimate
2,500–9,999 adults
Population Trend
In west Sichuan, forest clearance for agriculture and logging for timber are the main causes for the fragmentation of the jay’s habitat. On the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the increasingly drier temperatures are having a negative impact on the forest.
Conservation Underway
The range of the jay overlaps with that of the Giant Panda and therefore it is afforded some of the protection established for the panda. Reserves created for other mammals like the Golden Monkey and the Takin may also encompass suitable habitat for the jay. Much of this is speculation and the abundance of Sichuan Jays within these areas has not been quantified. Confirmed records come from just one protected area – the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in Sichuan. This 200km expanse of forest is being targeted by large tourism companies. Research into the parenting habits of the jay was undertaken from 1999–2002.
Conservation Proposed
An accurate assessment of the population is needed, with detailed information on the location of the jay’s key breeding areas and its elevational range. Data needs to be gathered on the ecological needs of the species. Add support to conservation efforts to protect Giant Panda habitat within the Sichuan Jay’s range. Uphold laws around logging within the forest habitat. Reduce the number of intentional forest fires. Reinforce laws protecting Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve in Sichuan. Lobby the government to list the Sichuan Jay as a protected species.
BirdLife International. (2001). Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Jing, Y., Fang, Y., Strickland, D., Lu, N. and Sun, Y. H. (2009). Alloparenting in the rare Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans). Condor 111(4): 662-667.

Jing, Y., Sun Y. H. and Fang, Y. (2003). Notes on the Natural History of the Sichuan Jay (Perisoreus internigrans). Chinese Journal of Zoology 38: 91–92

Mackinnon, J. R. (1996). A biodiversity review of China. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International, WWF China Programme.

Madge, S. and Burn, H. (1993) Crows and Jays: A Guide to the Crows, Jays and Magpies of the World. Helm Information, Sussex.
Text compiled by Michelle Harrison. Factchecked by Sun Yh.

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