Regional Offices > Green River Region > Critter Spotlight > Canada jay formerly known as the Gray jay

Canada jay formerly known as the Gray jay Canada jay formerly known as the Gray jay

Known around these parts as the Camp Robber!

Fun Critter Facts

One of several species of corvids (ravens, crows, magpies and jays) native to Wyoming, the gray jay (now formally the Canada jay) is known by a long list of nicknames, including camp robber, venison hawk, and whiskey-jack.  These birds are familiar to hunters and campers in the mountainous areas of Wyoming, adding a special flavor to the experience.

- As the name implies, this medium-sized jay is uniformly gray in color with a darker gray crown, back, and outer wings. This species is very tame, and may actually land on one's hand, on your shoulder, or on your rifle barrel while hunting.
- This bird has an uncanny ability to locate camps quickly following set up; they may wrestle a flapjack or piece of bacon from under your nose before you can blink. The name "whiskey-jack" is an anglicized version of the Algonquin word for a happy-go-lucky (and sometimes helpful) trickster called Wesakedjak, who could be both friendly and rob you blind at the same time.
- Gray jays are most abundant in subalpine and boreal coniferous forests throughout the west and Canada. Like most jays, their diet is heavily skewed toward animal matter, from insects to eggs and nestlings. They also consume some fruits and fungi. They are known to store food for later use, using sticky saliva to mold the food item into a package that is placed in bark crevices and other locations in trees. They have a good memory for these storage locales and typically return to consume the meal.  Given their harsh environment, gray jays consume a large number of calories per day for survival. 
-  Unlike most birds inhabiting the harsh alpine or boreal environment, gray jays nest in late winter, brooding eggs when it may be far below zero in temperature.   
They produce only this single brood of young, typically 2-5 in number. Nestlings remain in the nest for 22-25 days when they fledge and begin foraging with adults. In early summer, the largest chick drives all others from the monogamous adults' territory; this chick may assist in care of the following year's young prior to finding an adjacent unoccupied territory. The remaining chicks are forced to disperse to more distant territories, where survival is reduced. 

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