Canada Jays Are Curious, Cold-Hardy Birds

Get to know the Canada jay. Find out what these curious corvids look like, what the birds eat and where birders can find them.

Look for Canada Jays in Northern Forests

canada jayGetty Images/All Canada Photos
The Canada jay is a medium sized gray bird.

Cold doesn’t bother these hardy birds. Fluffy Canada jays are permanent residents of the coniferous forests of the far northern U.S., all the way to Alaska and throughout Canada. The robin-sized songbird caches extra food in crevices to survive in cold climates. These tough, fearless birds may even rear chicks in winter. To identify a Canada jay, look for a gray bird with a white forehead and a black cap.

Meet 8 types of jays you should know.

Name Change and Nicknames

Bnbbyc16 Sandra Scaggs 001Courtesy Sandra Scaggs
The Canada jay used to be known as the gray jay.

“Here in western Canada, we frequently see a bird we call a whiskeyjack. It’s gray, not shy and very curious. What is the real name of this bird?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Judy Fothergill Enderby, British Columbia.

Birding expert George Harrison says, “The proper name for whiskeyjacks is Canada jays (formerly known as gray jays). They’re also called camp robbers, because they’re not afraid to visit camp sites in search of food scraps. Like all jays, they’re members of the corvid family, with bold, inquisitive personalities.”

Learn how to identify and attract blue jays and Steller’s jays.

What Do Canada Jays Eat?

canada jayCourtesy Chris Shuraleff
Canada jays are very food motivated birds.

Gray jays are curious birds that eat just about anything, including berries and peanuts. They are often fearless around humans and will readily accept food if offered a handout. You also may spot them at bird feeders eating seeds and suet.

“While skiing in the Cascades, I stopped to eat and quickly made a feathered friend. This Canada jay (above) was right at home sharing my lunch,” says Birds & Blooms reader Chris Shuraleff of Eugene, Oregon.

Look for California scrub-jays on the west coast.

Juvenile Canada Jay

277259611 1 Melinda Mcenany Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Melinda Mcenany
Juvenile Canada jay

Young birds have the same rounded head shape as their parents but are darker overall in color with a lighter gray mustache mark on the face.

Next, check out 18 beautiful blue jay photos you need to see.

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Lori Vanover
Lori Vanover is the senior digital editor for Birds & Blooms. She has a bachelor's degree in agricultural and environmental communications from the University of Illinois. Lori enjoys growing vegetables and flowers for pollinators in her gardens. She is also a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.