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Gray Jay, Northwest subspecies
© Herbert Clarke

Perching Birds

Gray Jay  Perisoreus canadensis

Family: Crows, Magpies, Jays, Corvidae

Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org


Description  10-13" (25-33 cm). Gray above, whitish below. Forehead and throat white; nape and stripe through eye dull black. Immatures sooty-gray.

Habitat  Coniferous forests.

Nesting  3-5 gray-green eggs, spotted with dark olive-brown, in a solid bowl of twigs and bark strips lined with feathers and fur and placed near the trunk of a dense conifer.

Voice  Whee-ah, chuck-chuck; also scolds, screams, and whistles.

Range  Resident from Alaska east across Canada to Labrador and south to northern California, New Mexico, northern New York, and northern New England.

Discussion  Anyone who has camped in the mountains or the northern forests is familiar with this bird, formerly called "Canada Jay" and popularly known as the "Whiskey Jack" or "Camp Robber." This bird is very tame and is attracted to campsites, where it appropriates as much food as possible. It stores scraps of frozen meat, suet, or hide, gluing them into balls with its saliva and hiding them among pine needles.

Banner photo credit: CPAWS Wildlands League