Pearman: The Gray Jay

It is fitting that I devote this column to the gray jay, a bird that has received a lot of recent publicity. As most readers know, the Royal Canadian Geographic Society (RCGS) — after a two-year, Canada-wide search — has chosen the gray jay as our national bird. In a contest that entailed lively debates and online voting, the gray jay was chosen over the black-capped chickadee, common loon, Canada goose, and snowy owl.

The federal government hasn’t committed to naming a national bird, but the RCGS has made the case that Canada’s 150th anniversary is an appropriate occasion for our country to finally choose one.

Although the gray jay is a quintessentially Canadian bird species, some people have complained that it doesn’t really represent Canada because it is found only across the northern boreal forests. And there was some consternation voiced over the fact that the RCGS chose the gray jay even though the loon had won the popular vote.

The core range of the gray jay does not extend as far east as Red Deer, but one doesn’t have to travel very far West or North to encounter them, and anyone who has visited the West country will be well familiar with this friendly rogue-of-the-woods. If you haven’t yet encountered a gray jay, I suggest a trip to a west country campground or park (e.g., Crimson Lake). All you need to do is break out some food (nuts and pastry are favourites); within short order and with exceeding stealth, one or more of these fearless beggars will materialize to pilfer your offerings.

Gray jays are amazingly well adapted to their harsh northern home.

Check out my blog (myrnapearman.com) for a more detailed description of these amazing birds, including some of their notable adaptations (which include using saliva to stick food to storage spots) and interesting behaviours (they often nest in the dead of winter).

In addition to being nicknamed camp robber, meat hawk, moose bird and whiskey jack (from the Cree name wisedadjak, meaning mischievous prankster), this species was called Canada jay until 1957, when the American Ornithologists’ Union lumped it with the Oregon jay, and renamed it gray jay.

There has been a growing call for yet another name change, this time to reverts its name back to Canada jay. I fully support this suggestion—an iconic Canadian name for an iconic Canadian bird!

NOTE: I would like to thank everyone who came out to the launch of my new book, a compilation of five years of Red Deer Advocate nature photo essays: Beauty Everywhere: Nature Photo Essays by Myrna Pearman. Your support was greatly appreciated!

Myrna Pearman is the biologist/site services manager at Ellis Bird Farm.

Just Posted

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

Red Deer artist highlights the dinosaur connection of Alberta birds

Jeff Powers is fascinated by winged creatures

Murder charges laid against woman from the Sunchild First Nation

The 25-year-old female victim was found dead on Dec. 12

WATCH: CP Holiday Train rolls into Lacombe

Kelly Prescott performed for hundreds of Central Albertans

Fashion Fridays: How to change your beauty routine

Kim XO, lets you in on her style secrets each Fashion Friday on the Black Press Media Network

WHL’s Thunderbirds, Silvertips open to NHL joining Seattle hockey market

TORONTO — The Seattle area’s major junior hockey teams aren’t worried about… Continue reading

Canadian freestyle skier Karker excited for Dew Tour’s modified superpipe

Rachael Karker has a renewed sense of confidence heading into her second… Continue reading

CBS settled with Dushku over ‘Bull’ star’s sexual comments

LOS ANGELES — CBS reached a $9.5 million confidential settlement last year… Continue reading

Kanye reignites Drake feud on Twitter, alleges threats

LOS ANGELES — Kanye West is not sending Christmas cheer to Drake.… Continue reading

Councillors in Toronto, Ottawa vote to allow retail cannabis stores

TORONTO — Councillors in Toronto have voted to allow retail pot shops… Continue reading

Barry Cooper: Separation has become a real possibility, thanks to Ottawa’s abuses

In the past couple of weeks, a retired senior oil executive, Gwyn… Continue reading

Most Read