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Jays head for the Highlands

Early results from the Bird Atlas 2007-11, the biggest ever bird survey carried out in the UK, show that jays are moving north. Normally seen across most of Britain, but traditionally absent from northern Scotland, more of these birds are taking up residence in the Highlands.

Jays particularly favour oak woodlands and are well know for their acorn hoarding habits, burying several thousand acorns in the autumn and retrieving them when food is scarce later in the cold winter months. Some of these go unfound and go on to grow young oaks the following spring. It is this talent that make jays so important for the distribution of some oak species.

An increased prevalence of mature oak trees and the associated crop of acorns may be one of the reasons why jays are becoming more attracted to the Highlands. The maturing dense conifer plantations that provide secure nesting sites may also be helping their spread.

With a pinkish buff body, conspicuous white rump and electric blue patches in the wings, the jay is the most colourful member of the crow family. Despite this, they are quite difficult to see and are often only spotted when dashing between the trees, uttering a loud, raucous kraah call of alarm as they go.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) are keen to get people involved in discovering more interesting facts about the birds in Scotland, through their Bird Atlas 2007-11, which starts up again in April for the 2009 breeding season. Log onto www.birdatlas.net where you can easily submit Roving Records for any Jays you come across, or any other interesting species.

To find out more about the Bird Atlas in Scotland please contact Bob Swann at the BTO (bob.swann@bto.org)

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