The azure jay (Cyanocorax caeruleus) (Brazilian Portuguese: Gralha-azul - blue crow) is a passeriform bird of the crow family, Corvidae. It is found in the Atlantic Forest, especially with Araucaria angustifolia, in south-eastern Brazil (São Paulo to Rio Grande do Sul), far eastern Paraguay and far north-eastern Argentina. It is the state bird of Paraná.
|Scientific classification |
|Approximate distribution in green|
The azure jay has a total length of approximately 40 cm (16 in) and it weighs about 270 g (9.5 oz), and is the largest South American corvid. Its plumage is intensely blue with a contrasting black head and upper chest. Males and females are similar, although the females typically are smaller.
Its breeding season is from October to January. This bird is a social breeder. It lays 2–4 eggs and its nest is made of sticks. It is placed 10–20 m (33–66 ft) above the ground in an Araucaria tree.
It feeds extensively on the nut-like seeds of Araucaria angustifolia, but it is not strictly limited to this since it also feeds on insects and fruit. As other corvids, azure jays are highly intelligent. Their communication is complex, consisting of at least 14 distinct vocalizations. They form groups of 4 to 15 individuals that are well organized in hierarchies. These groups remain stable for up to two generations.
Folklore and culture
It is said that a black crow was on an araucaria tree, when it was scared by the sound of a man trying to take down the tree with an axe. Saddened by the destruction of its home, the crow flew to the sky, when it heard a voice saying that it would be painted with the color of the sky, and be guardian of the trees. And as a guardian of the araucaria trees, even guns would deny fire towards it.
This folklore is based mostly on the habit this bird has to bury araucaria seeds to consume later, helping the spread of the tree across the region, and being considered the greater disseminator of the species.
But above that, it shows the importance the araucaria tree, and the azure jay have to the people of Parana. It is the official symbol of the state (State Law n. 7957 of 1984), it gives name to the highest pize in theatrical arts of Parana (Azure Jay Trophy), and is the symbol of the soccer team Parana Clube.