Okay, Perisoreus Canadensis, let's play ball!

The Canadian jay is known by a variety of names such as "Whiskey-jack" and grey jay. I've also heard it referred to on occasion as a "pine-jay".

This gregarious member of the jay family also includes in its family the crow, raven and blue jay. Its Latin name is Perisoreus Canadensis.

Many consider the bird's call to sound as if its saying "whiskey-jack". Although I once heard a story of how this bird actually came by the name "whiskey-jack".

It's an amusing tale if nothing else. And who knows if it's really true.

The story goes that during the time of the fur trade trappers would be out on their trap lines for many days at a time. Often these trappers traveled deep into the wilderness without human companionship. It could, at times, be a very solitary existence. However, the whiskey jack was always around to keep them company especially when it came to meal time. It is said that on one of these excursions far into the woods, a trapper shared some of his bread with one of these friendly jays.

But first the trapper moistened the bread with whiskey which he had brought with him on his trip. The bird swooped down into the palm of his hand and ate the alcohol dampened bread apparently with ravenous delight. Next the trapper filled a small cup with some of the whiskey, placed it on the snow and waited.  Sure enough the cheeky jay returned and began dipping its beak into the spirits. SIDE NOTE,...( I could have said bending its elbow but I don't think anyone would believe it!)   Anyway, ever since that time the name whiskey jack has stuck.

There are however, a couple of points that I question about this story. For one thing, who the heck is Jack? Was Jack the trapper or is jack pine the type of tree most preferred by these birds? And secondly why didn't the trapper warn the poor "sauced up" little jay that drinking and flying don't mix? Oh, well, I guess none of us will ever know the full story!

The Canadian jay, along with the great horned owl is one of the earliest nesting birds in Ontario.  Usually by the end of May, this bird's offspring have already been fully reared.  The favoured habitat of the Canadian jay is dense pine forest.  They reside throughout all of the province except the southern farming regions which don't provide sufficient stands of pine for them to occupy. These tame birds are partial to pine seeds, which along with fruit tree seeds and buds, they bind together using saliva to form a small cluster of food. This they store for when food shortages may occur.


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