Black-throated Magpie-Jays

Black-throated Magpie-Jays

Black-throated Magpie-Jays

We spent part of Labor Day 2012 in extreme southern San Diego County, looking for a “mythical” Crested Caracara. From the small mall to the east, across the sod farms and Dairy Mart Ponds and west to the Border Fields State Park, at times quite literally in the shadow of Tijuana, we checked out every Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Cooper’s Hawk in view, but the National Bird of Mexico gave us the slip yet again. Instead, it was another Mexican bird that got our attention. We stopped at the community garden off Hollister and found a group of 3 or 4 Black-throated Magpie-Jays. What a striking bird!! Roughly 2 feet in length including the tail, the Black-throated Magpie-Jay is clad in gorgeous azure plumage with a black chest, cheek and crest set off against white underparts. These birds show many classic characteristics of the jay family including garrulous behavior and roguish personality. As it turns out, they share another annoying jay trait: the ability to avoid a camera most of the time! We saw one flock of at least 11 of these birds. The one shown here is probably a sub-adult, as evidenced by the white at the tips of the crest, and the pale nape, evidently still filling in with the darker blue it will have later. The adults have a completely black crest and a nape that is the same blue as the back. We talked with other San Diego birders and heard things like “Oh, that’s a yard bird in my neighborhood.” That suggests that the population of these jays is larger and less local than you might think. Jays are known for being smart and adaptable. For now, Black-throated Magpie-Jay is treated as an escapee or a released bird, but if juveniles and sub-adults are showing up, they may be here to stay! The Black-throated Magpie-Jay was digiscoped with a Kowa TSN-883 spotting scope, a Vortex PS-100 adaptor, and a Kowa TSN-DA-10 adaptor.

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