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Gray Jay


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The deceptively cute Gray 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, Gray 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.


Gray Jays sing a “whisper song,” a series of soft melodious notes interspersed with quiet clicks, lasting up to a minute.


  • Calls
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Gray Jays have a wide array of calls from harsh chatters to clear whistles, though they are much less vocal than other jays and crows. They can imitate the calls of their predators, including Northern Pygmy-Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, Merlins, Pine Grosbeaks, Red-tailed Hawks, Broad-winged Hawks, American Crows, and Blue Jays. This mimicry may confuse the predator or signal a threat to other Gray Jays.

Other Sounds

Gray Jays sometimes snap their bills while chasing away intruders.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Gray 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.

Find This Bird

The key to finding Gray 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.

You Might Also Like

Where Is That Bird Going With That Seed? It’s Caching Food For Later, All About Birds, April 13, 2016.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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