Gray Jay Bird – Canada Jay – Profile | Facts | Nest | Traits | Fly

Gray Jay

Gray Jay or Canada Jays are usually in small teams. They fly in quiet swoops, typically holding their wings beneath the horizontal. While they have a big number of vocalizations together with hoots and chatters, they’re much less noisy total than different jays. Canada Jays have very broad diets, consuming something from berries to carrion to handouts from hikers.

Gray Jay profile

A hiker within the north woods generally shall be adopted by a pair of Canada Jays, gliding silently from tree to tree, watching inquisitively. These fluffy jays appear fearless, and they could be a minor nuisance around campsites and cabins, stealing meals, incomes the nickname “camp robber.”

Tough sufficient to outlive year-round in very chilly climates, they retailer extra meals in bark crevices all summer season, retrieving it in a harsh climate.

Surprisingly, they nest and lift their younger in late winter and early spring, not in the course of the temporary northern summer season.

The deceptively cute Canada Jay is, without doubt, one of the most intrepid birds in North America, dwelling in northern forests year-round and rearing chicks at midnight of winter.

Highly curious and at all times looking out for meals, Canada Jays eat absolutely anything, from berries to small animals.

They could even land in your hand to seize a raisin or peanut. During the summer season, they hoard meals in timber to maintain themselves by means of bleak winters.

Gray Jay  Geographic Range

Gray jays, Perisoreus canadensis, are situated from as far north because the tip of northern Alaska to as far south as Arizona. Gray jays reside all through Canada, stretching to northern New England and as far south as New York.

Towards the central United States, grey jays are present within the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and mountainous parts of states within the West. This consists of western Wyoming and Idaho and remoted patches in Arizona and New Mexico.

On the west coast of the United States, grey jays are discovered as far south as Redwood National Park in California. This species is virtually non-migratory throughout its range. If something, migrations are altitudinal somewhat than latitudinal.


The Canada jay (Perisoreus canadensis), often known as the grey jay, gray jay, camp robber, or whisky jack, is a passerine bird of the family Corvidae.

It is present in boreal forests of North America north to the tree line and within the Rocky Mountains subalpine zone south to New Mexico and Arizona.

A pretty big songbird, the Canada jay has pale gray underparts, darker gray upperparts, and a grey-white head with a darker gray nape.

It is one in all three members of the genus Perisoreus, a genus more intently associated with the magpie genus Cyanopica than to different birds referred to as jays. The Canada jay itself has 9 acknowledged subspecies.

Gray Jays are medium-sized, grey birds with lighter bellies. There are three populations of Gray Jay in Washington, though the 2 western populations look fairly related.

The inhabitants in western Washington and the one within the Cascades each have black from above the eyes to the nape, a white face and brow, and a white stomach.

Their grey backs have a brownish solid with fantastic, white streaks. The Gray Jay within the Blue Mountains and the northeastern nook of Washington has a stable grey back with no brown or streaks, and a black nape.

The face, brow, and neck are white, with a bit of grey on the top of the top. The stomach is grey. Juveniles are darkish grey with light grey mustaches. Eastern Washington juveniles have darker caps and lighter throats than western Washington juveniles.

Gray Jay  Description

Gray jays are birds that weigh between 62-82 grams. Sexes are related in size and color, which consists of darkish and light grey, black, tan, and white.

These short-billed species grow to adults which have black legs and white auriculars, which are the feathers situated within the ‘cheek’ space that cover the ear canal. This species resembles widespread blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata), however, grey jays are smaller and darker.

Their adult wingspan averages 45 centimeters. From their head to the tip of their tail, on average, their size is 29.21 centimeters. If these birds are situated in the direction of the eastern United States, their color shall be barely paler than birds from the Rocky Mountains.

The Canada jay is a comparatively giant songbird, although smaller than different jays. A typical adult Canada jay is between 25 to 33 cm (9.8 to 13.0 in) long. Its wingspan is around 45 cm (18 in).

It weighs about 65 to 70 g (2.3 to 2.5 oz). Adults have medium gray back feathers with a lighter gray underside. Its head is usually white with a darkish gray or black nape and hood, with a brief black beak and darkish eyes.

The long tail is medium gray with lighter suggestions. The legs and feet are black. The plumage is thick, offering insulation within the bird’s chilly native habitat.

Like most corvids, Canadian jays will not be sexually dimorphic, however, males are barely bigger than females.

Juveniles are initially colored very darkish gray throughout, gaining adult plumage after a first moult in July or August. The average lifespan of territory-owning Canada jays is eight years; the oldest identified Canada jay banded and recaptured within the wild was a minimum of 17 years old.

Gray jay’s breast (ventral) feathers are brief and plentiful. In comparability, their dorsal feathers are very fantastic in the direction of their heads and clean on their wings. The clean texture of their wings permits flight with much less energy funding.

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The hatchling’s first molt is accomplished between April and May and takes two weeks to finish. Although adults on this species are tri-colored, as younger they’re uniformly darkish grey, nearly black.

Their coloring will resemble that of adults by May to August. Their ventral feathers flip to a lighter brown-cream color and their dorsal feathers flip a dusty grey color.

Gray Jay Lifespan/Longevity

According to data on North American birds, grey jays dwell to be the most age of 19.2 years (wild). Juveniles, of their fledgling stage, have a 52% mortality price per year of their natal territory.

When compelled out of their natal territory, in early June, juvenile grey jays have an 85% mortality price per year. Upon reaching maturity, the mortality price considerably decreases to about 20% per year, as a result of their functionality to guard themselves.

Adults are more prone to die in the course of the months of May by means of October than in the winter months. No information has been recorded about grey jays’ mortality in captivity.

Gray Jay Habitat

Gray Jays are discovered primarily in mature, humid, sub-alpine, spruce forests. They don’t typically breed beneath 2,000 feet and are most frequently discovered from 3,000 feet and above to the tree line, though some are discovered nesting regionally in lowland habitats.

Gray jays reside in coniferous and deciduous forests, particularly, in spruce (Picea), aspen (Populus), fir (Abies), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum)-dominated forests. Gray jays are depending on these trees for security in addition to reproduction.

Gray jays additionally thrive around everlasting waterbodies, from small ponds to the Great Lakes. In the summer season, grey jays usually dwell at elevations from 2,618 m to three,048 m.

In winter, people dwell at decrease elevations within the eastern and western United States. Gray jays will not be present in elevations beneath 600 m. At their lowest elevations, grey jays are present in spruce bogs.


Canada Jays are stocky, pretty giant songbirds with brief, stout payments. They have round heads and long tails, with broad, rounded wings.


Canada Jays are darkish grey above and light grey beneath, with black on the back of the top forming a partial hood. Juveniles are grayish-black overall and often present a pale gape on the base of the bill.

Gray Jay Behavior

Gray Jays are gregarious and are sometimes present in family teams. They could be very daring and can beg from campers, comply with hikers, and go inside cabins to steal meals.

These jays forage from perches and fly from tree to tree, scanning for meals. They cache meals in the course of the summer season and fall, utilizing sticky saliva to stick it in bark crevices and different hidden spots, they usually eat these saved meals by means of the winter.

Gray Jays typically carry meals with their feet in flight, which is uncommon for songbirds.

Gray jays hunt for meals on the ground and sleep in timber. They spend 95% of their day searching and storing meals. They catch their prey by strolling on the ground at a quick tempo.

They may also forage by strolling, flying, and working. On the forest ground, grey jays additionally spend a lot of time sunbathing to remain heat throughout chilly winters.

During the opposite 5% of the day, if they aren’t breeding, their time is spent within the timber like spruce (Picea) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea).

Gray jays sleep nearer to the trunk of the tree and tuck their heads beneath their wings to remain heat. Gray jays are thought-about diurnal as a result of they’re living in the course of the day and sleep at night.

Before mating, grey jays will dwell with different non-mating grey jays. Upon discovering a mate, the pair will not often half, and can push different grey jays out of their territory.

This territoriality is to scale back competitors for meals. Food shortage is commonest at the start of winter when grays jays are discovering mates.

Gray jays don’t migrate to search out mates and discover their mates of their parent’s territory.

The sole time grey jays migrate is from transferring from the surface of the forest to the within throughout winter months.

They do that as a result of the middle of the forest gives a barrier of timber from the chilly climates. There have been few data of them migrating altitudinally, as nicely.

When displaying territorial behavior, grey jays decrease their heads and run at different birds, like blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata).

Gray jays additionally will threaten their very own mates. The reasoning behind that is to drive the opposite mate to provide them meals.


Omnivores, Gray Jays eat a diverse diet made up of seeds, berries, bugs, and different invertebrates, fungi, small rodents, eggs, and nestlings of different birds, carrion, and campground handouts.

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Gray Jay  Food behavior

Gray jays are omnivores, foraging on berries, arthropods, worms, carrion, nestling birds, eggs, and a few small mammals (together with shrews, voles, and juvenile bats).

They will snatch flying bugs and even tear aside wasp’s nests. Gray jays eat small salamanders and toads, venturing into shallow water to forage. They additionally eat fungi.

They’ve been identified to make use of bird feeders supplied by people. They seek for their meals by perching on tree stumps and branches; after they have noticed their prey, they are going to swoop down and seize the merchandise.

In preparation for winter, grey jays will observe caching behavior in August and September.

This caching behavior consists of grey jays encasing the meals of their sticky saliva and sticking the bundle to tree branches to protect it in the course of the winter months.

Because grey jays eat little to no meals within the winter, they use as little energy as possible.

An opportunist in its foraging, flying from tree to tree looking for meals. Boldly enters campsites and even cabins to steal meals. Will assault rodents and small birds. Sometimes flies out to catch bugs in mid-air.

Regularly eats carrion, particularly in winter, coming to kills left by wolves or different predators. Stores meal gadgets all through the year, particularly in the summer season, and will dwell on these caches in extreme winter climate; the bird’s sticky saliva helps it stick items of meals in bark crevices and different spots. Can carry meal gadgets, even pretty giant ones, in-flight, generally carrying them with its feet.


3-4, generally 2-5. Pale grey to greenish, dotted with brown, olive, or reddish. Incubation is by feminine solely, about 18-22 days. Male generally brings meals to feminine on the nest.

Young: Female broods younger most of time at first whereas male brings meals; later, each parent deliver meals to nest. Young depart nest at about 22-24 days, stay with parents for a minimum of one other month.


Female broods younger most of the time at first whereas male brings meals; later, each parent delivers meals to nest. Young depart nest at about 22-24 days, stay with parents for a minimum of one other month.


Mated pairs keep collectively all year, and defend everlasting territories. Early in the breeding season, males could carry out courtship feeding of the feminine.

Nesting begins remarkably early, throughout late winter, whereas breeding grounds nonetheless snow-covered. Nest site is in dense conifer, near trunk at the base of the branch; often pretty low, averaging about 15′ above the ground.

Nest (constructed by each sex) is a cumbersome flat cup of twigs, lichens, strips of bark, and caterpillar webs, lined with softer supplies together with animal hair and feathers.

Gray Jays are monogamous, and pairs keep collectively on their territories year-round. They start nesting in late winter; counting on the meals they’ve cached to lift their younger.

They usually nest in a dense conifer tree, near the trunk, often inside 15 feet of the ground. Both members of the pair assist construct the nest, which is a cumbersome cup of twigs, lichen, bark strips, and caterpillar webbing, lined with hair and feathers.

The male brings meals to the nest whereas the feminine incubates 2 to 5 eggs for about 18 days. The feminine broods the younger for about 4 days, after which joins the male in feeding the younger.

The younger depart the nest at 22 to 24 days, however, stick with their parents for an additional four to six weeks. Recent research has proven there to be a 3rd, unrelated bird on the territory, serving to all through the nesting season.


Communication by grey jays varies broadly and might sign warnings of hazards or be used for mate attraction. Adult communications embrace screaming (high pitched, long tones) when the bird is in peril, and chatter (brief tones) which is used around terrestrial predators.

They additionally use alarm whistles around aerial predators, and social notes, which are two-parted whistles used to discover a mate.

The sounds that the grey jay makes vary between comfortable and loud chirps depending on the state of affairs. They additionally snap their payments around intruders to the nest and their territory.

Gray jays’ vision is ample to identify meals within the winter months when meals are scarce. When grey jays spot their meals, they swoop down and seize it with their beaks.

If the meals are over one-quarter of their body weight, they are going to switch it from their beaks to their feet with a view to fly. This movement makes use of their sense of steadiness when flying. Gray jays’ sense of scent is pretty weak.

A trait that grey jays are identified for is their mimicry. They are identified to imitate owls, hawks, crows, and blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata). The mimicry adaptation is to intimidate potential predators by sounding like a predator themselves.

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Gray Jays don’t undertake a regular migration, however generally transfer down-slope throughout winter.

Gray Jay Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List classifies grey jays as a species of “Least Concern.” Due to their inhabitant’s size, grey jays haven’t any particular standing on the US Federal List, CITES, or the State of Michigan List.

Gray jays are protected beneath the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which implies it’s unlawful for anybody to take, possess, import, export, transport, promote, buy, barter, any bird protected.

Because Gray Jays dwell in pretty distant areas, their inhabitants standing just isn’t well-known. They choose unaltered forests, and populations typically decline after forests have been clear-cut.

Caching meals for the winter permits these birds to stay at high altitudes and in northern climates year-round and permits them to start their breeding season early.

Gray Jay Facts

In 2018, the American Ornithological Society voted to vary the widespread name of the Gray Jay to Canada Jay.

The Canada Jay shops giant portions of meals for later use. It makes use of sticky saliva to attach small meal gadgets to tree branches above the height of the eventual snow line.

It could also be this meal storage behavior that permits the jay to dwell to this point north all through the winter.

The Canada Jay nests throughout late winter, incubating its eggs in temperatures that will drop beneath minus 20°F. Oddly, it doesn’t try a second brood within the May–June breeding interval utilized by different birds in boreal habitats, though these hotter situations would look more favorable.

Paleontologists have recovered the fragmented fossils of two Canada Jays from the late Pleistocene (about 18,000 years ago), together with different boreal birds and mammals, at a collapse in central Tennessee, indicating a lot colder local weather at the moment than now.

The Canada Jay ranges throughout northern North America, and its shut relative the Siberian Jay spans an identical swath of northern Eurasia. Together, they full a hoop across the Northern Hemisphere. The two species share the behavior of utilizing sticky saliva to connect meals to crevices in timber.

A 2.5-ounce Canada has to eat 47 energy (technically, kilocalories) per day, in comparison with a human’s each day diet of two,000 kilocalories.

Canada Jays reap the benefits of no matter meals they’ll discover. A Canada Jay was seen landing on the back of a dwell moose to eat blood-filled winter ticks.

Another was noticed tearing a baby bat away from its mom. Canada Jays could even assault injured bigger animals.

The Canada Jay has extremely thick, fluffy plumage that it puffs up in a chilly climate, enveloping its legs and feet. Even its nostrils are coated with feathers.

The oldest Canada Jay on record was a minimum of 17 years, 2 months old. Banded in 1985, it was recaptured and re-released by a bird bander in Colorado in 2002.

Where to search out

The key to discovering Canada Jays is to take a look at a range map and pay a go to this bird’s northern or high-elevation boreal forests.

After that, they’re prone to discover you, as these curious birds examine new sights and sounds of their territories.

Look for them approaching quietly, making brief flights from perch to perch, or calling back and forth to one another.

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