The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in their Bird Atlas 2007-11 show that Jays are moving north! Traditionally they were absent from northern Scotland but now jays are resident in the highlands. It took a while for these colourful birds to make their way west to Mull but now a few are breeding here. Only a few years back the sighting of a Jay was very rare and would cause excitement with the local birders. They are still not common and not often seen as it’s their nature to be singular or in a pair and not gregarious like all the other members of the crow family.
The Jay is significant to us because of their behaviour in hoarding acorns. The close association between the Jay and the oak is reflected in the scientific name given to it. The species component of its name is glandarious which is latin for acorn. Its full name is Garrulus glandarious, garrulus means noisy.
Their hoarding behaviour of randomly hiding individual acorns underground is thought to be significant to the propagation of oak trees. An individual Jay may hoard as many as 3000 acorns intended to be their winter food storage. The acorns which are not recovered will begin to grow and will become the next generation of oaks, ensuring the future of the woodland.
Jays eat a wide range of foods as they are opportunists and will take anything that is abundant. Beetles and caterpillars, eggs and young birds make up part of their diet, as well as other tree seeds. So this newcomer to Mull is not only a colourful new species and a joy to see, it is also a native woodland specialist assisting us in the conservation of our woodlands.