Living Bird Magazine
Canada JayPerisoreus canadensis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Corvidae
The deceptively cute Canada Jay is one of the most intrepid birds in North America, living in northern forests year-round and rearing chicks in the dark of winter. Highly curious and always on the lookout for food, Canada Jays eat just about anything, from berries to small animals. They may even land on your hand to grab a raisin or peanut. During summer they hoard food in trees to sustain themselves through bleak winters.More ID Info
Find This Bird
The key to finding Canada Jays is to look at a range map and pay a visit to this bird’s northern or high-elevation boreal forests. After that, they’re likely to find you, as these curious birds investigate new sights and sounds in their territories. Look for them approaching quietly, making short flights from perch to perch or calling back and forth to each other.
- gray jay
- Arrendajo Canadiense (Spanish)
- Mésangeai du Canada (French)
Canada Jays visit feeders within their northern range, eating almost any kind of food (seeds, suet, etc.) offered on tube, platform, or ground feeders. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- In 2018, the American Ornithological Society voted to change the common name of the Gray Jay to Canada Jay.
- The Canada Jay stores large quantities of food for later use. It uses sticky saliva to glue small food items to tree branches above the height of the eventual snow line. It may be this food storage behavior that allows the jay to live so far north throughout the winter.
- The Canada Jay nests during late winter, incubating its eggs in temperatures that may drop below minus 20°F. Oddly, it does not attempt a second brood in the May–June breeding period used by other birds in boreal habitats, even though those warmer conditions would appear to be more favorable.
- Paleontologists have recovered the fragmented fossils of two Canada Jays from the late Pleistocene (about 18,000 years ago), along with other boreal birds and mammals, at a cave in central Tennessee, indicating a much colder climate at that time than now.
- The Canada Jay ranges across northern North America, and its close relative the Siberian Jay spans a similar swath of northern Eurasia. Together, they complete a ring around the Northern Hemisphere. The two species share the habit of using sticky saliva to attach food to crevices in trees.
- A 2.5-ounce Canada has to eat 47 calories (technically, kilocalories) per day, compared to a human’s daily diet of 2,000 kilocalories. Canada Jays take advantage of whatever food they can find. A Canada Jay was seen landing on the back of a live moose to eat blood-filled winter ticks. Another was observed tearing a baby bat away from its mother. Canada Jays may even attack injured larger animals.
- The Canada Jay has incredibly thick, fluffy plumage that it puffs up in cold weather, enveloping its legs and feet. Even its nostrils are covered with feathers.
- The oldest Canada Jay on record was at least 17 years, 2 months old. Banded in 1985, it was recaptured and re-released by a bird bander in Colorado in 2002.