Birds Vol 1 #4 – The Canada Jay (Grey)

Canada Jay (Grey) for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Canada Jay (Grey) for Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

Vol 1. April, 1897 No. 4



I don’t believe I shall let this bird talk to you, boys and girls, for I’m afraid he will not tell you what a funny fellow he is. Isn’t he a queer looking bird? See how ruffled up his feathers are. He looks as though he forgot to fix up, just as some little boys forget to comb their hair before going to school. Well, to tell the truth, he is a very careless bird and does very funny things sometimes. He can’t be trusted. Just listen to some of the names that people give him—“Meat Bird,” “Camp Robber.” I think you can guess why he is called those names. Hunters say that he is the boldest of birds, and I think they are right, for what bird would dare to go right into a tent and carry off things to eat. A hunter thought he would play a joke on one of these birds. He had a small paper sack of crackers in the bottom of his boat. The Jay flew down, helped himself to a cracker and flew away with it to his nest. While he was gone the hunter tied up the mouth of the bag. In a few moments the Jay was back for more. When he saw he could not get into the bag, he just picked it up and carried it off. The joke was on the hunter after all. Look at him. Doesn’t he look bold enough to do such a trick? Look back at your February number of “Birds” and see if he is anything like the Blue Jay. He is not afraid of the snow and often times he and his mate have built their nest, and the eggs are laid while there is still snow on the ground. Do you know of any other birds who build their nests so early? There is one thing about this bird which we all admire—he is always busy, never idle; so we will forgive him for his funny tricks.

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) by Daves BirdingPix



ANY will recognize the Canada Jay by his local names, of which he has a large assortment. He is called by the guides and lumbermen of the Adirondack wilderness, “Whisky Jack” or “Whisky John,” a corruption of the Indian name, “Wis-ka-tjon,” “Moose Bird,” “Camp Robber,” “Hudson Bay Bird,” “Caribou Bird,” “Meat Bird,” “Grease Bird,” and “Venison Heron.” To each of these names his characteristics have well entitled him. The Canada Jay is found only in the more northern parts of the United States, where it is a resident and breeds. In northern Maine and northern Minnesota it is most common; and it ranges northward through the Dominion of Canada to the western shores of Hudson Bay, and to the limit of timber within the Arctic Circle east of the Rocky Mountains. Mr. Manly Hardy, in a special bulletin of the Smithsonian Institution, says, “They are the boldest of our birds, except the Chickadee, and in cool impudence far surpass all others. They will enter the tents, and often alight on the bow of a canoe, where the paddle at every stroke comes within eighteen inches of them. I know nothing which can be eaten that they will not take, and I had one steal all my candles, pulling them out endwise, one by one, from a piece of birch bark in which they were rolled, and another pecked a large hole in a keg of castile soap. A duck which I had picked and laid down for a few minutes had the entire breast eaten out by one or more of these birds. I have seen one alight in the middle of my canoe and peck away at the carcass of a beaver I had skinned. They often spoil deer saddles by pecking into them near the kidneys. They do great damage to the trappers by stealing the bait from traps set for martens and minks, and by eating trapped game. They will sit quietly and see you build a log trap and bait it, and then, almost before your back is turned, you hear their hateful “Ca-ca-ca,” as they glide down and peer into it. They will work steadily, carrying off meat and hiding it. I have thrown out pieces, and watched one to see how much he would carry off. He flew across a wide stream and in a short time looked as bloody as a butcher from carrying large pieces; but his patience held out longer than mine. I think one would work as long as Mark Twain’s California Jay did trying to fill a miner’s cabin with acorns through a knot hole in the roof. They are fond of the berries of the mountain ash, and, in fact, few things come amiss; I believe they do not possess a single good quality except industry.” Its flight is slow and laborious, while it moves on the ground and in trees with a quickness and freedom equal to that of our better known Bluejay. The nesting season begins early, before the snow has disappeared, and therefore comparatively little is known about its breeding habits. It is then silent and retiring and is seldom seen or heard. The nest is quite large, made of twigs, fibres, willow bark, and the down of the cottonwood tree, and lined with finer material. The eggs, so far as is known, number three or four. They are of a pale gray color, flecked and spotted over the surface with brown, slate gray, and lavender.

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) by Raymond Barlow

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) by Raymond Barlow

Lee’s Addition: What an industrious bird! From what was written above, it seems this jay knows no bounds to providing for its family and apparently its curiosity.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. (Proverbs 13:11 ESV) When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. (Psalms 104:28 ESV)

The Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), also Grey Jay, Canada Jay, or Whiskey Jack, is a member of the crow and jay family (Corvidae) found in the boreal forests across North America north to the tree-line and in subalpine forests of the Rocky Mountains south to New Mexico and Arizona. It is one of three members of the genus Perisoreus, the others being the Siberian Jay found from Norway to eastern Russia and the Sichuan Jay restricted to the mountains of eastern Tibet and northwestern Sichuan. All three species store food and live year-round on permanent territories in coniferous forests.

The vast majority of Gray Jays live where there is a strong presence of one or more of black spruce, white spruce, Englemann spruce, jack pine, or lodgepole pine. Gray Jays do not inhabit the snowy, coniferous, and therefore seemingly appropriate Sierra Nevada of California where no spruce and neither of the two named pines occur. Nor do Gray Jays live in lower elevations of coastal Alaska or British Columbia dominated by Sitka spruce. The key habitat requirements may be sufficiently cold temperatures to ensure successful storage of perishable food and tree bark with sufficiently pliable scales arranged in a shingle-like configuration that allows Gray Jays to wedge food items easily up into dry, concealed storage locations. Storage may also be assisted by the antibacterial properties of the bark and foliage of boreal tree species. An exception to this general picture may be the well-marked subspecies P. c. obscurus, once given separate specific status as the “Oregon Jay”. It lives right down to the coast from Washington to northern California in the absence of cold temperatures or the putatively necessary tree species.

Gray Jays typically breed at 2 years of age. Pairs are monogamous and remain together for their lifetime, but a male or female will find another mate following the disappearance or death of their partner. Nesting typically occurs in March and April. Male Gray Jays choose a nest site in a mature coniferous tree and take the lead in construction. Cup-shaped nests were constructed with brittle dead twigs pulled off of trees, as well as bark strips and lichens. Cocoons of the forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma dysstria) filled the interstitial spaces of the nest. Nests are usually built on the southwestern side of a tree for solar warming and are usually

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) Feeding at Nest ©WikiC

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) Feeding at Nest ©WikiC

Gray Jay young are altricial. Nestling growth is most rapid from the 4th through the 10th day following hatching. Young are fed food carried in the throats of both parents.

Gray Jays do not hammer food with their bill as do other jays, but wrench, twist, and tug food apart. Gray Jays commonly carry large food items to nearby trees to eat or process for storage, possibly as defense against large scavengers. They are “scatterhoarders”, caching food items among scattered sites for later consumption.

Any food intended for storage is manipulated in the mouth and formed into a bolus (rounded mass) that is coated with sticky saliva, adhering to anything it touches. The bolus is stored in bark crevices, under tufts of lichen, or among conifer needles.

Risk and energy expenditure are factors in food selection for Gray Jay, which selects food on the basis of profitability to maximize caloric intake. Increased handling, searching, or recognition times for a preferred food item lowers its profitability.

The Gray Jay takes advantage of man-made sources of food, hence the names “camp robber” and “whiskey Jack”. According to Maccarone and Montevecchi, human observers do not inhibit Gray Jay’s feeding behavior; however, Rutter claims that “once having identified man with food it does not forget”. He found that after a nesting female was accustomed to being fed by humans she could be enticed to leave the nest during incubation and brooding.

Gray Jays cache thousands of food items every day during the summer for use the following winter. Caching behavior allows for permanent residence in boreal and subalpine forests, ensures a food source in areas with high elevations and cyclic availability of food resources, and favors the retention of young and a kin-selected social organization. In southern portions of the Gray Jay’s range, food is not cached during summer because of the chance of spoilage and the reduced need for winter stores. Cached items can be anything from carrion to bread crumbs and are formed into a bolus before being cached. Cached food is sometimes used to feed nestlings and fledglings.

Caching is inhibited by the presence of Steller’s jays and Gray Jays from adjacent territories, which follow resident Gray Jays to steal cached food. Gray Jays carry large food items to distant cache sites for storage more often than small food items. To prevent theft, they also tend to carry valuable food items further from the source when caching in the company of 1 or more Gray Jays. Scatterhoarding discourages pilferage by competitors. Cache thievery increases with increased cache density.

When exploiting distant food sources found in clearings, Gray Jays temporarily concentrated their caches in an arboreal site along the edge of a black spruce forest in interior Alaska. This allowed a high rate of caching in the short term and reduced the jay’s risk of predation. A subsequent recaching stage occurred, and food items were transferred to widely scattered sites to reduce theft.

Birds Illustrated by Color Photograhy Vol 1 April 1897 No 4 – Cover

Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited – Introduction

The above article is the first article in the monthly serial for February 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Purple Gallinule

Previous Article – The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

ABC’s Of The Gospel


Corvidae – Crows, Jays Family

Grey Jays – Wikipedia



Please leave a Comment. They are encouraging.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s