Canada Jay

Perisoreus canadensis
Range Map

The Canada Jay has been given many names. In the far north, it is known as the Whiskey Jack. Early trappers heard the native Americans call it ‘wiska-jon’, which they modified to Whiskey Jack. This hearty bird will nest in the coldest part of the year, even in the bitter winters of the far north.

I first met the Gray Jay, as we used to call it, during a visit to Yellowstone National Park in 2001. Then in 2005, I found myself in their company in northeastern British Columbia (Canada) while on my way to Alaska. In September 2017, while on my way from Klamath Falls to Medford (Oregon), I’d detoured past Mount Mazama to see Crater Lake, and on my way down the mountain I stopped at a pullout to sniff the air for bird-life. While there, I heard the calls of the Canada Jays from high in the canopy, but the birds stayed too high for me to get eyes on them. One day, I hope to meet more of these charismatic jays.

Science recognises nine subspecies of Canada Jay:

  • P. c. canadensis lives in northeastern Alaska and the Canadian Yukon east to Quebec and south into Great Lakes and northern New England.
  • P. c. pacificus lives in central Alaska through southwestern Alaska to coastal British Columbia.
  • P. c. obscurus lives in northwestern Washington south to northwestern California.
  • P. c. griseus lives in southern British Columbia through Cascade Range to northeastern California.
  • P. c. bicolor lives in the Rocky Mountains in Canada from southeastern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta south through eastern Washington, central Idaho, and western Montana.
  • P. c. capitalis lives in the Rocky Mountains from central Idaho to northern New Mexico and eastern Arizona.
  • P. c. albescens lives east of the Rocky Mountains from northeastern British Columbia and northwestern Alberta south to western South Dakota.
  • P. c. nigricapillus lives from Quebec through Labrador (Canada).
  • P. c. sanfordi Oberholser lives in Newfoundland (Canada).

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