The Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) is also known as the grey jay, Canada jay, and whiskey-jack, taken from Wiskedjak and Wisekejack, a word used by the Algonquian aboriginals of eastern Canada to refer to a mischievous, transforming spirit who plays tricks on people. The Gray Jay is slightly smaller than it's cousin the Blue Jay, but is a very hardy, brave and intelligent bird. The Gray Jay's back and tail are medium gray, the underside is slightly lighter, and the head is white with a black crown. They have a short, black bill, large dark eyes, and thick, fluffy plumage that keeps it warm when temperatures can drop below minus forty degrees Celsius ( - 40 F ) for weeks on end. Canadian Geographic magazine convened an expert panel in 2016, which selected the Gray Jay as the National Bird of Canada.
The Gray Jay is a passerine bird in the family Corvidae. It's habitat covers the boreal forests of North America, from the north of the tree line of the Rocky Mountains south to New Mexico and Arizona. The Gray Jay is one of three members of the genus Perisoreus, including the Siberian jay (P. infaustus) habitating from Norway to eastern Russia, the Sichuan jay (P. internigrans) is native to the eastern Tibetan mountains and northwestern Sichuan.
In Canada the Gray Jay is found from coast to coast to coast in all thirteen provinces and territories, from the edge of the tree line in the highest mountains and in the far north, south to the spruce bogs at the boundries of farming country; they are rarely seen in towns or cities. Wherever the Gray Jay is found, monogamous pairs maintain and aggressively defend their territory year round. All Perisoreus jays live all year on permanent territories in the coniferous forests of the northern hemisphere. They survive the harsh winter months living on food they have stored throughout their territory during the summer months. The Gray Jay is an intelligent bird that remembers the locations of its many, wide spread food stores. Mated pairs occupy territories of about 65 to 70 hectares, often sharing the territory with an extra, non-breeding jay; usually the dominant juvenile of the brood, having run his or her siblings out of the territory as the chicks matured. Territory-holding adult Gray Jays do not migrate, not even short distances.
The Gray Jay's fearless and venturesome character allows it to quickly adapt to humans in it's territory, they will approach humans for food and learn very quickly about new sources of food. Gray Jays stay in one place so do not face the dangers of long annual migrations, they live a relatively long time for such a small bird. Gray Jays have an average lifespan of about 8 years and some reach the age of fifteen or sixteen years. Of the few deaths that occur among territory-owning Gray Jays, most happen in summer because of migrating hawks; but the Gray Jay survives and even thrives during the long harsh winters of Northern Canada, like Canadians always have !
NATIONAL BIRD OF CANADA