Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Passeriformes Corvidae

Scientific Name: Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus Wied, 1841
Common Name(s):
English Pinyon Jay
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Boesman, P. and Kirwan, G.M. 2016. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: Passerines. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.
Identification information: 25.5 cm. Short-tailed, uniform-coloured blue jay with a long, straight bill reflecting its specialised diet. Similar spp. Only remotely similar species is the Mexican Jay Aphelocoma ultramarina but this species has a much longer tail and is distinctly two-toned. Voice Variety of soft, nasal calls.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2bc+3bc+4bc ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Inigo, E., Rosenberg, K., Wells, J., Benford, R., Wiggins, D., Hucks, K., Boone, J. & Ammon, E.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Bird, J., Harding, M., Sharpe, C.J., Taylor, J., Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Westrip, J.
This species is listed as Vulnerable because of evidence for rapid population declines, presumably as a result of the conversion and degradation of its pinyon-juniper woodland habitat.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus is a permanent resident of the foothills and lower mountain slopes of the western and south-western U.S.A. and northern Baja California, Mexico. In the U.S.A., it is found from central Oregon east to western South Dakota and south to central New Mexico and extreme western Oklahoma. In years when pine crops fail it becomes irruptive, with individuals often dispersing far outside their normal range (Madge and Burn 1993, Balda 2002). Thought to be be owing mainly to habitat degradation/loss, this species is estimated to have suffered a population decline of 30.6% from 2003 to 2013 (Sauer et al. 2014).

Countries occurrence:
Mexico; United States
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:2280000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):1000
Upper elevation limit (metres):2900
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Rich et al. (2003).

Trend Justification:  This species has undergone a large and statistically significant decrease in North America. Data from Breeding Bird Survey suggest between 2003-2013 the species underwent a decline of c.-3.6% per year (Sauer et al. 2014). Partners in Flight data give the species a 'half-life' of 19 years (Rosenberg et al. 2016). Both datasets, therefore, suggest that over three generations the species has declined and may continue to decline at a rate of c.49% over 3 generations (18.6 years). Therefore, the rate of decline is placed in the range of 30-49% over 3 generations.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:YesPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No
No. of individuals in largest subpopulation:1-89

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is a highly social cooperatively-breeding bird, forming permanent flocks of typically 250 individuals (Madge and Burn 1993), but which may number over 500 (Balda 2002). Many birds spend their entire lives in their natal flocks, and individuals that do disperse (mostly young females) generally travel short distances. Dispersal habits are affected by changes in local habitat, and by fluctuating operational sex ratios within and among flocks (R. Benford in litt. 2012). Although omnivorous, it has a mutualist relationship with the pinyon pine complex of western North America, dispersing the large wingless seeds long distances and reaping the reward of an energy and nutrient rich food source. Individuals have excellent spatial memories, giving them uncanny recovery accuracy when digging up food stores months after caching, even through snow. It is one of the earliest nesting passerines in the U.S.A., commencing breeding in the winter in areas where the pine-seed crop was abundant the previous autumn. One population in New Mexico breeds in autumn when pinyon pine cone crops are available (Balda 2002).

Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):6.2
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat to this species may have been the destruction of its major habitat type, pinyon-juniper woodland. Land managers have followed a policy to eradicate this woodland, with the U.S. Forest Service classifying it as "non-commercial" and placing it in a "no-value" category. During the 1940s-1960s, major programmes to eradicate the entire habitat were carried out, during which possibly millions of G. cyanocephalus died owing to habitat destruction. Currently herbicides, mechanical ploughing and fire are used to turn pinyon-juniper woodland into pasture land for cattle. Fire-suppression policies in south-west U.S.A. have led to huge, uncontrolled wildfires that consumed large areas of suitable habitat in the late 1990s (Balda 2002). A "catastrophic" drought in the early 2000s also caused considerable mortality (Benford 2008). Drought events can also lead to water stress and increase susceptibility to pinyon engraver beetles (Wiggins 2005). The decline of pinyon pine and associated encroachment of juniper associated with global warming are primary factors restricting habitat and limiting reproductive success (R. Benford in litt. 2012). However, there has also been the suggestion that it may be a decline in the woodland/shrubland transitional areas and habitat quality which may have been even more important in the continued decline of this species (E. Ammon and J. Boone in litt. 2016).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
No new policies are in place, whilst old ones are no longer implemented (Balda 2002).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Identify suitable areas of pinyon-juniper habitat for protection. Promote suitable land-management practices. Encourage land-owners to take advantage of funding opportunities to create, restore and maintain suitable habitat on their land. Reclassify high-quality, contiguous patches of pinyon juniper woodland and complex woodland/shrubland matrices as ecologically valuable and protected; most Pinyon Jay habitat is on public land, and management plans focused on preserving this forest are essential (Benford 2008, J. Boone in litt. 2016). Further investigate causes on ongoing declines (J. Boone in litt. 2016), for instance looking into the impacts of habitat modification/ degradation on breeding success and if it influences area abandonment (D. Wiggins in litt. 2016).

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Edited Population Trend Justification, Conservation Actions, Habitats and Ecology and Geographic Range Information text. Updated Important Conservation Actions Needed and Actions in Place, and altered the seasonality for United States to resident. Added new references, new Contributors and a new Facilitator/Compiler.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22705608A110431877. . Downloaded on 23 May 2018.
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