Two color morphs of Brown Jay are the plain-tailed (or brown-tailed) and white-tipped morphs; the latter was once considered a separate species, P. mexicanus (Selander 1959, dos Anjos 2009). Morphs are distinguishable based on the color of retrices. Plain-tailed morphs have an entirely brown tail while white-tipped morphs have white tips on retrices 2-6 (the central pair of rectrices are entirely brown). Although similar in habitat requirements and preference, the plain-tailed morph generally occurs in more mesic habitat on the eastern coast of Mexico west of the Yucatan peninsula and the white-tipped morph occurs in more arid habitat from central Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula to Panama. A polymorphic zone is found in central Mexico (Selander 1959). The different morphs frequently pair and reproduce and show identical behaviors (Selander 1959).
Three subspecies are recognized:
palliatus van Rossem 1934, occupying the Lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas and eastern Mexico south to Puebla and northern Veracruz.
This subspecies occurs only in the plain-tailed morph.
morio (Wagler 1829), distributed from southeast Mexico from the coastal plain of central Veracruz south, except in the Yucatan Peninsula, to western Panama; also occurs on the Pacific slope of Costa Rica
Both plain- and white tailed morphs occur from Veracruz south to northeastern Chiapas; populations south of this region all are white tailed. This subspecies is darker, in the plain tailed morph, than palliatus (Phillips 1986). The white tailed has a duller, less clearly whitish breast does vociferus, and the tibial feathers are "more or less tinged with fuscous distally" (Phillips 1986).
vociferans (S. Cabot 1943), which occurs in the northern Yucatan peninsula
Tibial feathers are white; lower breast white, contrasting sharply with the dark upper breast (Phillips 1986). Occurs only in the white tailed morph.