Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Vulnerable

Amami Jay (Garrulus lidthi)

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Taxonomy

French: Geai de Lidth German: Prachthäher Spanish: Arrendajo de Lidth
Other common names: Lidth's Jay
Taxonomy:

Garrulus lidthi

Bonaparte

, 1850,

“Asia orientali”= Amami-Oshima, Japan

.

See G. lanceolatus (above). Monotypic.

Distribution:

Amami-Oshima, in N Ryukyu Is (S Japan).

Descriptive notes

38 cm; c. 125 g. A rather large, dark purplish-blue and chestnut jay with forehead and loral feathering somewhat stiffened, crown feathers very slightly elongated (can be inconspicuously erected), tail relatively longer than that of G. glandarius and somewhat graduated at tip, bill rather stout; in shade of forest overall appearance of a very dark bird, with contrasting pale bill and with narrow white trailing edge on innermost secondaries and tail. Has nasal tuft, forehead, loral region, chin and throat black, throat with short white streaks; remainder of head, neck, uppermost mantle and breast dark purplish-blue, lower breast gradually merging into rufous-chestnut, washed with mauve, of remainder of body plumage (with wear, chestnut colour prevalent as purplish feather fringes abraded); tail dark purplish-blue, black subterminal band and white tip; upperwing dark purplish blue, wing-coverts and secondaries finely barred black, tertials unbarred but with prominent white tips; iris dark violet-blue; bill clear pale yellowish, greener base; legs dark grey. Sexes similar. Juvenile is much drabber than adult, with purplish areas of plumage dull brownish or dark greyish, and chestnut areas dull brown, lacks white tips on tertials and tail.

Drawing by Brian Small
Descriptive notes:

38 cm; c. 125 g. A rather large, dark purplish-blue and chestnut jay with forehead and loral feathering somewhat stiffened, crown feathers very slightly elongated (can be inconspicuously erected), tail relatively longer than that of G. glandarius and somewhat graduated at tip, bill rather stout; in shade of forest overall appearance of a very dark bird, with contrasting pale bill and with narrow white trailing edge on innermost secondaries and tail. Has nasal tuft, forehead, loral region, chin and throat black, throat with short white streaks; remainder of head, neck, uppermost mantle and breast dark purplish-blue, lower breast gradually merging into rufous-chestnut, washed with mauve, of remainder of body plumage (with wear, chestnut colour prevalent as purplish feather fringes abraded); tail dark purplish-blue, black subterminal band and white tip; upperwing dark purplish blue, wing-coverts and secondaries finely barred black, tertials unbarred but with prominent white tips; iris dark violet-blue; bill clear pale yellowish, greener base; legs dark grey. Sexes similar. Juvenile is much drabber than adult, with purplish areas of plumage dull brownish or dark greyish, and chestnut areas dull brown, lacks white tips on tertials and tail.

Voice

Most frequent call a harsh, grating "kraah", readily given in alarm by flushed birds, or when mobbing predators; can be uttered at variety of pitches. High-pitched mewing call presumed to be a contact call, as frequently heard from foraging birds. Screech call seems to be given only during display. May call repeatedly from tops of tall trees for up to 3 minutes, speeding up in frequency towards end and ceasing abruptly.

Habitat

Mature forest of various types, both subtropical evergreen broadleaf forest and conifers; also plantations or small stands of trees at edges of villages. Widespread both in lowlands and in mountains.

Food and feeding

Omnivorous. Chiefly invertebrates, but also small snakes and lizards, during breeding season; at other times has fondness for chestnuts and acorns, and stores them for later use. Diet includes variety of seeds and berries, especially in autumn and winter, including small sweet-potatoes. Usually encountered in pairs or small parties; sometimes as many as 100 congregate in winter to roam through forest undergrowth and clearings. Rather ponderous, moving between foliage and branches and inspecting every nook and cranny; reported as using the relatively large bill as a climbing aid, giving impression like that of a parrot (Psittacidae). Readily perches in open situations, such as rock outcrops in forests, prominent treetops, or large bushes on scrubby hillsides.

Breeding

Eggs recorded in Feb and Mar. Probably has long-term pair-bond. Solitary breeder. Nest a foundation of twigs, with deep cup lined with rootlets and other soft plant materials, built up to 5 m from ground inside tree hole, on cliff ledge under overhang, or inside old building; maintains small breeding territory of 150–300 m2. Clutch 3–5 eggs; no information on incubation and fledging periods.

Movements

Mainly sedentary; some altitudinal migration at higher elevations.

Status and conservation

VULNERABLE. Restricted-range species: present in Nansei Shoto EBA. Found only on Amami-O-shima and nearby tiny island of Kakeroma-jima. In 1983 a single individual was reported from Iriomote-jima, in Yaeyama Is, but this most likely an escaped bird or a released illegal captive. Population estimated at 5800 birds in 1970s, but considered to have decreased considerably since then as a result of introduced predators, notably small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), and increasing numbers of Corvus macrorhynchos. Jay numbers once again rising, due to natural forest regeneration and efforts to control the mongooses. Was for many years persecuted through uncontrolled shooting and trapping for the fashion industry, its unusual plumage making it popular in the hat trade in early 20th century. Now fully protected by Japanese law, having been declared a National Monument; a National Wildlife Protection Area has been created at Yuwandake for present species and Common Scaly Thrush (Zoothera dauma) of highly endangered race major, often treated as a full species ("Amami Thrush"). In 1920s was said to have been common in C mountains of nearby island of Tokun-O-shima, but doubt has been expressed over this as no subsequent reports and no conclusive proof of its presence there.

Recommended citation

Madge, S. (2017). Amami Jay (Garrulus lidthi). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/60729 on 24 November 2017).