Birds

Species in Focus: Grey Jay

Before 2015 you might not have heard much about the Grey Jay (if anything at all), but that has certainly changed.

Since The Royal Canadian Geographical Society began, then completed, its “National Bird Project” the Grey Jay has received a lot of publicity, and for good reason — it’s an awesome bird!

Grey Jay. Image Credit: Cephas CC License 3.0.

Grey Jay. Image Credit: Cephas CC License 3.0.

Grey Jay in the News

If you didn’t know already, the Grey Jay (despite being crowned the Canada’s National Bird by Canada Geographic), is not Canada’s national bird. In fact, Canada does not have a national bird.

Although Canada Geographic named it so, the effort to give the bird that status was not sanctioned by the Canadian government.

Regardless of its status, or place in the Canadian psyche, the Grey Jay is one of Animal Perspectives’ species in focus.

A Perisoreus canadensis hatchling. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

A Perisoreus canadensis hatchling. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

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Species in Focus

The Grey Jay is actually a corvid, meaning that it’s part of the family of birds which includes Blue Jays, Magpies, Crows, and Ravens. And yes, it’s considered to be an intelligent bird.

Grey Jays are found in the higher elevations of the boreal forests of Canada at the tree line. The tree line is the limit in high elevations where trees grow — nothing grows above the tree line.

Female Gray Jay incubating her eggs during a winter snow storm. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

Female Gray Jay incubating her eggs during a winter snow storm. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

That should give you an idea of just how hardy these birds are and if that doesn’t help to illustrate it, check this out: according to the CBC they have been found to incubate eggs in -30 C temperatures. Hey, fellow Americans! That’s -22 F!

Audubon and “Transporting the Carrion Bird”

Image Credit: Audubon Free Library Plate 107 Canada Jay Final

Image Credit: Audubon Free Library Plate 107 Canada Jay Final.

John J. Audubon’s account of the bird, at the time called the “Canada Jay” is a bit chilling to say the least. Called the “carrion-bird” because of its “carnivorous propensities” he described it as shy,

“but when hungry they shew no alarm at the approach of man, nay, become familiar, troublesome, and sometimes so very bold as to enter the camps of the “lumberers,” or attend to rob them of the bait affixed to their traps.”

He then goes on to relay a story about bored lumberers (lumber jacks) who would trap the birds for their amusement and then crudely catapult them into the air. The game was called, “transporting the carrion bird.”

The Grey Jay is infamous for stealing food from campers, but will also eat out of a hikers hand. They are omnivorous and will eat smaller birds and rodents.

A Gray Jay in gray, sooty juvenile plumage. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

A Gray Jay in gray, sooty juvenile plumage. Image Credit: Dan Strickland CC License 3.0.

The females lay a clutch between 2-4 eggs and will incubate eggs for about 20 days. Males do not participate in actively incubating eggs, but they do feed the female while she broods. The parents are with their young from egg to fledge, a total time of approximately three months.

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Categories: Birds

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