Bob O’Brien and Michaela Casey of Albany sent me this picture of a Gray Jay, also called a Canada Jay. This bird and two of his friends (probably its mate and another family member) visited with Bob and Michaela on a recent hike up Speckled Mountain. The birds appeared and watched while Bob and Michaela ate their lunch. Unlike their more boisterous cousin, the Blue Jay, this bird is known to silently and suddenly show up around campsites, shelters and cabins in the high mountains in our area. They can be remarkably tame around people and will sit calmly hoping for a chance to dash in for a snack. With a little patience, they will often even take food from the hand.

Gray Jays are not considered common in our area and some studies suggest their population is falling in their Southern range (our area) due to warming temperatures. They make their home in spruce, fir and hemlock forests. Some have described them as giant chickadees because of the their black, white and gray coloration.

Aside from their calm, tame behavior, these birds are also unique in other ways. For instance, they nest in the depths of winter when temperatures are regularly below zero and food is scarce. Like other jays, the Gray Jay stores food in caches which helps them through these times of scarcity.

The next time you are hiking or snowshoeing in our high mountains, keep a watchful eye for these polite panhandlers, especially when you take a lunch or snack break.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to [email protected]

Gray Jay Bob O’Brien and Michaela Casey

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