A bold resident of the west and north,
Gray Jays are often seen
stealing food items from unwary hikers and campers, a habit that has earned them
a nick name of the "Camp Robber". Well adapted to the cold climates in
which they are normally found, Gray Jays will stash food items in crevices of
bark, and retrieve the food items during harsher times. This habit and
resultant availability of food allows them to breed much earlier than other
species, with nesting occurring as early as the late winter. Gray Jays have several
races which differ most notably on the size of the black patch on the back of
Habitat: Shows a very strong preference
for spruce trees, generally being found in spruce or mixed forests.
Diet: Omnivorous, feeding on insects, birds eggs
and young, small rodents, fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, carrion, and human
Behavior: Very opportunistic, taking food in a
wide variety of manners as opportunities present themselves. They will
store food to use during harsh winter months.
Nesting: April through June. The nest is a cup
of twigs, bark, mosses, and lichens, lined with softer materials. The
female lays 3 or 4 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs. When the eggs
hatch, the female typically stays with the young at the start, while the male
brings food. After several days, both parents bring food. The young
leave the nest after about 3 weeks.
Song: Wide variety of vocalizations, from soft
whistles, to rougher and harsher notes.
Migration: Generally a permanent resident. Some
birds that summer at higher elevations may move to lower elevations for the
Similar Species: Generally distinctive if seen
well. In range, possibly confused with other mostly gray birds, such as Clark's
Conservation Status: There may be some local declines
in areas of habitat loss, but overall, populations are stable, and they are
found over a very wide geographic area.
The IUCN lists the Gray
Jay as a species of "Least Concern".
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Gray Jay"
Photo Information: August 9th, 2007 - Yellowstone
National Park, Wyoming - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Gray Jay photos.