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.
The tree below shows the evolutionary relationships between this species and all other birds. The colours of the tree indicate EDGE scores with the red shades indicating the higher priority species; the bright red leaves correspond to the top 100 EDGE bird species. Further information on every species can be found by zooming in to its leaf on the tree.
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.
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.
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.
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.