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Canada Jay or Whiskey-Jack # 6265

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Date: 2004.01.03
Vantage Point: Lunch Spot on Oboe Summit

Caption: A Canada Jay or Whiskey-Jack sits patiently, enjoying the sun--and hopes to swipe some goodies.

PhotoDescr: The Canada Jay or Whiskey-Jack (Perisoreus canadensis)is commonly found where backcountry travellers pause to feed. Initially not at all cautious, the juveniles can be easily conditioned to expect food handouts from all people. On this occasion, we had to watch our food rather cautiously, and even had one bird dive into the confines of a pack to check out possible food sources.

Generally found at higher elevations, the Canada Jay is normally resident where found, that is, they do not migrate. A clever survivor, the bird is well-known to hide stashes all over the subalpine reaches and apparently has a memory that would put humans to shame when it comes to remembering where the stashes are.

The young are often quite loud and make their whereabouts obvious, particularly if they have not been recently fed. Growing quickly from dark grey "furballs" into juveniles as large as their parents, the parent birds seem to be flapped right off their wings as they try to meet the demands of their offsprings' appetites.

Though rather slow in the air, Canada Jays are fast in the trees and on the ground. They are also quite manoeuverable and easily snap up any crumbs left by messy backcountry enthusiasts in the flash of a wingtip.

One of the peculiar abilities of the Canada Jay that shows how well it is adapted to alpine life concerns its ability to not only lay eggs but brood them at temperatures that could literally freeze some birds solid. By starting the nest early and hatching chicks long before spring arrives, Canada Jays get a head start on other bird species and have well-developed, aggressive offspring who prove more than capable of competing with migrants who arrive later in the spring.

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