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Canada Jay - BirdForum Opus

A bird of the obscurus group
Photo by digitalbirder
Manning Park forest, British Columbia, Canada, May 2005

Alternative name: Gray Jay

Perisoreus canadensis


27 - 31cm. A small, variable jay of the forest of North America. Generally small-billed and with a fluffy appearance.

  • Nominate subspecies:
    • White to light greyish-white forehead, forecrown, face, neck and upper breast
    • Black to dark brown central crown to nape
    • Slate-grey upperparts
    • Light grey underparts
  • capitalis:
    • paler, with a much paler head than nominate
A bird of the canadensis group
Photo by mjmw
Ocquossoc, Maine, USA, February 2008
  • obscurus:
    • dark on head extends to forecrown
    • contrastingly dark above and pale below

The other subspecies are intermediate between the three mentioned. Sexes similar, males larger than females. Juveniles are much darker than adults.

Similar species

Looks superficially similar to Clark's Nutcracker.


North America:
Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Prince Edward Island
United States: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming


Photo by Glen Tepke
Mount Jefferson, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire, USA, June 2004


There are 8 subspecies[1]:
Canadensis Group - Gray Jay (Northern)

  • P. c. pacificus:
  • P. c. canadensis:
  • P. c. albescens:
  • western Canada east of the Rocky Mountains from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta south to north central United States (Black Hills, western South Dakota)
  • P. c. nigricapillus:

Gray Jay (Rocky Mountains)

  • P. c. bicolor:
  • P. c. capitalis:
Photo by River Girl
Oquossoc, Maine, USA, May 2015

obscurus Group - Gray Jay (Pacific)

  • P. c. griseus:
  • P. c. obscurus:


Coniferous and mixed forest of the taiga and high mountain elevations. Recorded at 2440 - 3050m in the Rocky Mountains.


They travel in small flocks and are very tame and often approach people.


Feeds on beetles, bugs, other insects, spiders, berries, fungi and sometimes on small birds, frogs, snakes, mice or other vertebrates. Takes also carrion. Produces a sticky saliva with which it glues together berries and other food items into balls for easier winter storage, like its relative the Siberian Jay.


Breeding season starts already in late winter (February) and goes to April. Two birds stay permanently together. The nest is a bulky platform made of twigs and well insulated. It's placed 1.7 to 15m above the ground, close to the trunk of a spruce or fir tree. Lays 3 - 4 eggs.


A resident species. Most pairs stay in their territory for their whole life.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2009. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 14: Bush-shrikes to Old World Sparrows. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553507

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.