Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Almost everybody who comes to the Border Country will encounter
the Gray jay. That is because they are not shy and will swoop
down to visit campsights to find food.
What do gray jays look like?
A gray jay has a white belly, forehead, breast, and neck.
The rest of its body is gray. Young jays are slate colored
gray all over. Gray jays look fluffy because they have long
insulating feathers to keep them warm in the cold winter months.
Gray jays are about 10-13 inches long.
Click on photo to enlarge
What do gray jays sound like?
They have a variety of different calls some are harsh and high pitched.
They are generally quiet and quite tame. If you hold food out for
a gray jay then very often it will come take it from your hand!
Where do gray jays live?
These jays live in northern coniferous forests. They are found all
over the Border Country. They live in small groups and are rarely
What is so interesting about gray jays?
These birds spend most of their time during the warmer months collecting
food. They hide excess food in places called caches. Before they
hide the food they mix it with their sticky saliva and then make
small pellets out of it. These pellets are packed full of energy
which they can use at a later date in the winter when food supplies
are running low. The jays store the pellets in trees and under pine
needles. This hidden food comes in handy in February when they begin
building their nests.
When do gray jays nest?
Gray jays begin making their nests in February and start laying
eggs in the middle of March. It is still cold in the northern forests
at that time of year so the jays must eat lots of food to have enough
energy for building and taking care of young. They rely on their
caches of pellets for a lot of their energy.
What do they build their nests out of?
Gray jays use a collection of twigs, bark and sometimes pieces of
wasp nests. The inside is lined with soft warm materials like deer,
moose, snowshoe hare fur, and fine grasses. These soft materials
are comfortable as well as insulative.
Where do the gray jays find the fur to make their nests?
Gray jays will feed on leftover carrion and will often pick up clumps
of hair to take back to their nests.
What are some other names for gray jays?
Gray jays are known also as "Camp Robbers" and "Whiskey
The next time you are in the Northern Woods do not be surprised
if a friendly gray jays comes by to see if you will share your food!
Farrand, J. Jr. 1988. An Audobon Handbook: Eastern Birds. McGraw-Hill
Book Company, New York.
Stensaas, M. 1993. Canoe country wildlife: a field guide to the
North Woods and Boundary Waters. Pfeifer- Hamilton, Duluth, MN.
Udvardy, M.D.F. 1977. The Audobon Society field guide to North American
birds: Western region. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.