Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the Canada jay.
A trip to the high country is required to spot these pretty, gregarious birds, but if they are around, they’ll quickly make their presence known. These curious birds will swoop in with quiet flight to check out new sights and sounds in their territory. They have learned to associate humans with food and will eat from an extended hand. They can make pests of themselves at campsites, grabbing unattended food and earning the name camp robber.
A bird of many names, the Canada jay was known as the gray jay until the American Ornithological Society realigned the common and scientific (perisoreus canadensis) names in 2018. Occurring in spruce and mixed forests of the northern United States and Canada, and high mountain ranges in the west, the Canada jay figures as a trickster in the lore of northern Indigenous tribes. Another of its common names, whiskey jack, is derived from the Cree word wisikejack.
A rather large, stocky, long-tailed bird, both the male and female are dark gray above and light gray below with a black patch on the back of the head and a short, stout bill. Thick, fluffy plumage provides insulation. Mated pairs stay together for life and are rarely found apart.
The Canada jay will eat nearly anything, including carrion. It caches food in sticky globs using saliva to glue it to tree branches and behind loose bark. The amazing ability to locate this stored food allows this bird to winter in areas where other food sources are buried in snow.
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This story was posted on September 29, 2019.