The Pinyon Jay, (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus), is is bluish-grey allover; its head is a deeper blue with a whitish throat and black bill, legs and feet. It lacks the necklace of Scrub and Blue-Jays. Its overall porportions are very nutcracker-like and both birds fill similar ecological niches; however the Pinyon Jay is the only member of the genis Cymnorhinus.
The Pinyon Jay, with its shorter tail and longer bill, looks a bit like a small, blue crow…but is about the size of an American Robin. It is gregarious and gathers in large, noisy flocks; walking about like small crows. It lives in pinyon pine foothills where the seed of this tree is its staple food…supplemented with fruits, berries and insects; which it often catches with its feet.
The Pinyon Jay's bill is featherless at its base (hence the name Gymnorhinus = bare nostrils). Nearly all other members of the family Corvidae have feathers covering their nostrils. The Pinyon Jay can probe deep into pitch-laden cones without fouling the feathers that would cover the nostrils of other jays. Although omnivorous, the Pinyon Jay is committed to the harvest, transport, caching, and later retrieval of pine seeds. It is aided by a relatively long, strong bill; an expandable esophagus and can carry dozens of seeds
at a time.
It is a very social bird, often forming huge flocks of 250 or more with several birds seeming acting as sentries; watching for preditors while the rest feed. The Pinyon Jay is a synchronized colonial nester that commences breeding in the cold of winter in areas where pine-seed crops were abundant the previous autumn. This is one of the earliest nesting passerines in the United States. Nests are bulky and well insulated and often are placed on the south side of tree foliage—usually one to a tree and scattered throughout a traditional breeding ground that is used almost every year. At some nests, yearling males help provision their brothers and sisters. Young from multiple nests gather in crèches, which may number in the hundreds of individuals, where they are fed predominantly by their parents; this requires exacting individual recognition. In these crèches, young birds preen each other and exert dominance over their associates and are subject to severe predation.
The voice is described as a rhythmic, ascending krawk-kraw-krawk repeated two or three times; perhaps making it seem all the more like a cawing crow.
Pinyon Jay: notice the lack of both necklace and crest.
"Quietly talking" Pinyon jays
Photos from Wikipedia