Gray Jay

General description.

With its short bill and black at the nape of its neck, because of its coloration, the "Gray Jay" has been likened to a giant chickadee. Called "Whiskey Jack" or "Camp Robber" by loggers and trappers, this bird is very tame. Sometimes it will take food directly from the hands of hikers, and will enter camps to take anything it can eat, even snatching bacon from the frying pan.

Juvenile appearance.

The first winter's molt garbs the immatures in sooty gray plumage.

Flight pattern.

Using branches as a ladder, the "Gray Jay" explores a tree from top to bottom, then parachutes gently to the base of another.

Breeding habits.

The "Gray Jay" resides where it breeds in the coniferous forests of northern Alaska to Newfoundland, south to northern California, the southern Rockies and New England.

Calls or song.

The "Gray Jay" is quieter than most other jays, yet imitates the sounds of other birds, such as owls and hawks. Their sounds vary from shrill, hawk-like cries through a series of whistles and cooing notes, "hoo, hoo, hoo" and chatters, "rak-rak-rak".

Nesting habits.

These jays nest early, sometimes in deep snow in temperatures below zero. Between February and April, the female fashions a neat cradle of sticks, moss and bark, held together by spider webs, which she conceals it in the trunk of a small spruce. Adults are able to feed their nestlings through the cold because they cashe their food at every chance when the weather is temperate. They glue together masses of seeds and buds, with their thick saliva, and store them for use.
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