Canada Jay

Identification: L. 11 1/2. This soft gray fluffy jay with its small bill looks very much like an oversized chickadee. Although the head pattern is variable, adults are unmistakable. Juveniles are a uniform sooty color, darkest above, becoming almost black about the head.

Habits: Throughout its range the Canada jay is found almost exclusively in coniferous forests. As a scavenger it is much attracted by human activities, and from woodland camps it takes off and catches not only food but any small items that take its eye. This “camp robber” eats almost everything from baked beans (a special delicacy) to insects, seeds, fruits, and buds.

Voice: The calls are varied. Most are pleasant and unjaylike, but a frequent one is a weak complaining or querulous cry. Another is a single clear whistle. The rallying cry is a loud ka-whee or ka-we-ah.

Nest: A bulky compact structure of twigs, bark strips, and much soft material, placed near the trunk and rather low (4 to 30 feet) in a dense conifer, occasionally in a willow. The center cup is thickly lined with fur, feathers, and similar material to help keep the eggs warm. This species often lays in February, when temperatures may be below zero. The usual clutch is 4 grayish eggs (1.12 x .80) evenly marked with dots and spots of olive-brown.

Range: (R.) Occurs from the northern limit of trees in Labrador, c. Quebec, n. Mackenzie, and n. Alaska south to Nova Scotia, New Hampshire, n. New York, c. Michigan, s.w. South Dakota, n. New Mexico, and n. California. In winter sometimes wanders as far south as Pennsylvania and Nebraska.

Excerpted from the Audubon Land Bird Guide: Small Land Birds of Eastern & Central North America from Southern Texas to Central Greenland, published in 1949.

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