Canada Jay

Perisoreus canadensis

  • Version: 2.1 — Published November 8, 2018
  • Dan Strickland and Henri R. Ouellet

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Canada Jay.
Definitive Basic Canada Jay.

A long-tailed, small-billed jay without a crest. Adults have whitish auricular area and throat often extending into a collar around the neck. Head is white except for dull black crown patch; amount of black on head varies geographically. Nares covered by feathers and bill appears short. Loose and fluffy dull-colored plumage. Bill, legs, and feet black.

© Evan Lipton , New Hampshire , United States , 28 February 2015

The Canada Jay is a widespread resident of North America's boreal and subalpine coniferous forests. Occupation of permanent all-purpose territories in such climatically hostile biomes is made possible by scatter-hoarding and recovery of seemingly perishable food items that this species fastens in trees under bark scales and lichens with the assistance of copious sticky saliva from enlarged salivary glands.

The Canada Jay nests during late winter in cold, snowy, and apparently foodless conditions, with eggs incubated at temperatures as low as -30° C. Second broods or replacement nests are not attempted in the seemingly more favorable May–June breeding period used by other boreal passerines. Once fledged, young stay in the natal territory until early June, when the dominant brood-member expels its siblings. Expelled individuals attempt, singly, to join unrelated pairs whose own nesting has failed. Juveniles (dominant and expelled) use their natal or adopted territories as safe havens until a nearby breeding position becomes available. If juveniles are still on natal or adopted territories at the commencement of the following breeding season, they are actively prevented from approaching the nest by the adults and therefore do not help to feed nestlings. They may, however, begin to feed young after they have left the nest.

Some evidence indicates that the Canada Jay is declining at the southern edge of its range, possibly in response to climate warming and the consequent degradation of the perishable food stores used for late-winter nesting.

Recommended Citation

Strickland, D. and H. R. Ouellet (2018). Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), version 2.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.