Canada Jays and Their Bad Reputation

The Canada jay (Perisoreus canadensis) is one of my favorite birds. They’re entertaining when I’m sitting in a tree stand while hunting or when walking through the woods. They’ll fly up from behind, land ten feet ahead of me, wait until I pass, chatter at me, and fly up from behind again. They’re amusing themselves with me as much as they amuse me. They don’t stay long when I’m sitting. Once they’ve looked me over for a minute they go about their business.

Canada jay, Gray Jay, Whiskey Jack, camp robber, lumberjack, meat bird, gorby

This Canada jay flew from a field to this tree several times in 20 minutes. I couldn’t figure out why.

According to Cornell University’s website, All About Birds, “Gray Jays sing a “whisper song,” a series of soft melodious notes interspersed with quiet clicks, lasting up to a minute.” I haven’t heard their song. I have heard their whistles and chatters, and more than once I’ve fallen for their imitations of blue jays, pine grosbeaks and American crows. They mimic other birds as well. When they’re going to mob me to find out what I am, they’re noisy in the distance and continue to chatter while they land, look and move again around me.

They’re a pretty bird with a white head that sports a black cap. Canada jays have varying degrees of dark to light gray wings, back and tail with a white/light gray body. They have a stocky body and short beak. When gliding, their wings are often lower than horizontal making them easy to identify in the air.

Canada jays range from northern and eastern US into Canada. They’re found in mixed evergreen and deciduous forests. Members of the crow family, they aren’t picky eaters. They’ll eat berries, seeds, small animals such as mice and have carrion for dessert. They store food in trees for winter meals. They visit my yard, usually staying at the edge of the woods near the maple and ash trees, but never visit my feeders. I’m told they eat suet and seeds, raisins and food scraps left out for them.

Not everyone feels the say sense of amusement I have when it comes to Canada jays. They’ve earned nicknames such as bait thief, meat bird and camp robber. They’re also known as whiskey jack, lumberjack and gorby. I’ve heard stories of them stealing lumberjacks’ lunches when given the opportunity.  They’re not shy; I can easily picture them helping themselves to a snack.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.