USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Birds of the St. Croix River Valley: Minnesota and Wisconsin

FAMILY CORVIDAE

Jays, Magpies, and Crows


Gray Jay -- Blue Jay -- Black-billed Magpie -- Common Raven -- Common Crow

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)

Status: Casual migrant, winter and summer resident.

Migration: Irregular migrant throughout the Valley. Earliest fall migration records include 17 October 1976 (Washington County), 25 October 1965 (Crex Meadows, Burnett County), and 1 November 1974 (Chisago County). Most fall observations occur 15 November to 15 December. Green (1967) described an invasion of gray jays in northern Minnesota that resulted in several Valley records. Spring observations range from 23 February 1957 to 30 March 1966 and 6 April 1954 (Crex Meadows, Burnett County).

Nesting Season Distribution: W. Norling observed one pair of gray jays in a spruce forest southwest of Moose Junction, Douglas County, on July 1978. On 27 June 1956, A. C. Sprunt observed several gray jays in the Kohler-Peet Wildlife Area, Burnett County (Lound and Lound 1956b). Sprunt found this species near Gordon, Douglas County, on 6 July 1956.

Winter: Irregular winter visitor with documented records only from Burnett (1948, 1955, 1957, and 1976), Pierce (January 2, 1976) and Pine (1973 and 1976) counties. During the winter of 1956-57, gray jays were reported as "numerous" near Grantsburg, Burnett County. This species is probably more common during winter months than available data indicate, particularly in the Northern Highland.

Habitat: During migration and winter, gray jays use a variety of habitats including Lowland Coniferous Forest, Northern Hardwood Forest, and Jack Pine Barren. Summer observations have been restricted to extensive areas of Lowland Coniferous Forest.


Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident.

Migration: Common to locally abundant migrant in all regions. The first migration movements in spring are usually noted about 1-5 April and peak numbers occur 25 April to 10 May. Fall migration begins in mid-August with the formation of loose flocks. Peak movements during fall occur 5-15 September and most migrants have departed the Northern Highland by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Fairly common breeding species in the Western Upland and Central Plain, common in the Northern Highland. Goddard (1972) found the blue jay to be among the 10 most common breeding birds in mixed deciduous habitat along the Kinnickinnic River, Pierce County. Mean breeding density in that area was 23 pairs per 40 ha. Breeding Bird Survey data (Table 5) demonstrate a gradual increase in abundance northward across the Valley.

Table 5. Mean number of corvids, parids, wrens, mimids, and thrushes recorded on western Wisconsin Breeding Bird Survey transects, 1966-78.

 
Western Upland
Central Plain
Northern Highland
Species group
Hudson
Dresser
Loraine
Union
Minong
Corvids
Blue jay
4.9
9.0
11.2
29.0
19.1
Common raven
0.0
0.0
0.5
<0.1
3.2
Common crow
36.3
30.2
54.7
28.6
29.5
Parids and nuthatches
Black-capped chickadee
0.4
0.6
2.4
7.0
8.2
White-breasted nuthatch
0.6
1.8
2.2
1.0
0.5
Red-breasted nuthatch
0.0
<0.1
0.0
0.2
0.5
Wrens
House wren
8.9
10.4
13.3
14.8
9.0
Winter wren
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.0
0.1
Long-billed marsh wren
0.0
0.2
0.2
0.0
0.0
Short-billed marsh wren
2.5
3.7
6.4
0.0
1.3
Mimids
Gray catbird
5.2
8.8
16.7
8.0
12.4
Brown thrasher
8.4
9.1
5.2
5.9
5.6
Thrushes
American robin
30.5
46.1
30.6
19.8
26.9
Wood thrush
0.4
0.6
0.7
0.8
2.2
Hermit thrush
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.4
6.1
Veery
<0.1
1.4
11.2
1.2
27.1
Eastern bluebird
2.1
3.8
3.9
6.7
1.8

Winter: Blue jays are among the few conspicuous members of the winter avifauna in the Valley. Populations vary considerably each winter because of various environmental factors affecting habitat suitability and food supply. Analysis of CBC data (Table 4) indicates that winter populations are largest in the Western Upland region where the predominant habitat is Southern Deciduous Forest. Winter populations in Jack Pine Barrens (Grantsburg CBC) are also high. Lowest winter populations occur in the mixed deciduous-coniferous forest type of the Northern Highland. Largest CBC counts include 597 (2 January 1976) and 485 (2 January 1977) on the Suburban St. Paul CBC, and 509 (1 January 1970) on the Afton CBC.

Habitat: Blue jays use a variety of habitats for nesting, including deciduous and coniferous communities, edge situations, and various ornamental plantings in residential areas. Highest breeding densities occur in northern coniferous communities including Jack Pine Barren and mixed deciduous-coniferous habitats. In the Western Upland, blue jays are common in Southern Deciduous Forest and in remnants of oak savannah. This species appears to be partial to oak forest. During years of poor acorn production, the migration of this species is heavy. In years of high acorn production, large wintering populations occur.


Black-billed Magpie (Pica pica)

Status: Casual, two fall records and one hypothetical record.

Records: K. H. Dueholm observed a black-billed magpie at the McKenzie Creek Wildlife Area, Polk County, on 25 October 1973. C. Strehlow observed one in St.Croix County on 12 November 1921 (Milwaukee Public Museum files). Bernard (1967) described a specimen in the University of Wisconsin-Superior bird collection that was "said to have been taken at Solon Springs in the 1930's. Unfortunately, however, no label is attached to the specimen." Roberts (1932) stated that in Minnesota, the black-billed magpie occurs "as far east as Pine and Goodhue counties, both bordering on the Wisconsin line."


Common Raven (Corvus corax)

Status: Regular permanent resident.

Migration: Uncommon spring and fall migrant in the Northern Highland and Central Plain, accidental elsewhere. Definite migratory movements begin about 15 October, reaching a peak by 1 December. Spring migration begins in late February with dispersal from winter territories. Most ravens have reached their breeding territories by 1 April.

Nesting Season Distribution: Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that the common raven is a rare breeding bird in the Central Plain and uncommon in the Northern Upland (Table 5). Documented nest records exist only for Burnett and Polk counties. Jackson (1942) failed to record ravens during his research in northwestern Wisconsin in 1919. Bernard (1967) considered common ravens uncommon in summer, but cited no evidence of breeding.

Winter: Fairly common to common winter resident in the Northern Highland, uncommon to fairly common in the Central Plain. The largest concentrations have been recorded near Solon Springs, Douglas County; 192 were recorded on 23 December 1974.

Habitat: Common ravens are not characteristic of any one habitat during the breeding season. The Burnett County nest was found in an oak savannah that was invaded by jack pine. The Polk County nest was in mixed aspen-maple forest. Observations of apparent territorial common ravens indicate an attraction to Northern Hardwood Forest during the nesting season. Large numbers of common ravens are usually associated with garbage dumps during the winter.


Common Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Status: Regular migrant, nesting species, and winter resident.

Migration: Spring migration begins in the Western Upland during mid-February with dispersal from local winter roosts. Numbers of migrants gradually increase, reaching peak numbers 25 March to 10 April. Fall migration begins in late August with flock formation. Peak movements occur 20 September to 15 October and nonwintering birds have departed by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Common nesting bird in all regions. Breeding Bird Survey data indicate a fairly uniform breeding population throughout the Valley; greatest abundance is in the Central Plain (Table 5). Documented breeding records exist for all eight counties.

Winter: The CBC data (Table 4) show the winter distribution pattern of the common crow. This species is common to locally abundant in the Western Upland, fairly common in the Central Plain, and rare and local in the Northern Highland. The highest winter counts include 959 (1 January 1975), 941 (l January 1977), and 908 (1 January 1974), all on the Afton CBC.

Habitat: The common crow is primarily an edge species using several woodland habitat types. Common crow breeding habitat is further characterized by the association of agricultural fields or Old Field Community. Also used is Lowland Deciduous Forest and Northern Hardwood Forest. The occurrence of large farming operations and the resultant abundance of waste grains probably enhance the habitats of the Western Upland for wintering common crows.


Previous Section-- Swallows
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Titmice

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/stcroix/corvidae.htm
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:58:03 EST
Reston, VA [vaww55]