Monday, 26 March 2018

Grey Jay (Mésangeai du Canada) in Algonquin Provincial Park

     We just returned from a weekend in Algonquin Provincial Park, one of the jewels in the Ontario park system, and a full report of this adventure will follow in the next day or two.
     In the meantime I would like you to meet the Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), a bird which for me symbolizes the park.





     The great trove of research done on this bird was carried out primarily in Algonquin Provincial Park by Dan Strickland, a park biologist, now retired. The work that he did, and the techniques he developed to follow the birds and locate their nests is the stuff of legend. 
     

     Unfortunately, the birds in the park are in trouble. Their numbers have declined substantially over the last twenty-five or thirty years, due to the effects of global warming. It still staggers me to think that virtually the entire US government denies that it even exists and its leaders are actively rolling back measures enacted to combat it.
     One of the main issues facing the Grey Jay, which is already nesting in February, is its inability to successfully store winter food. Grey Jays have extra large mandibular glands that produce a sticky saliva for forming sticky boli (singular, bolus) of food which they then attach to the bark of trees and cache them away in various nooks and crannies. Winter in Algonquin used to mean solid freeze up from November through early April. Now repeated thaws are causing the food to rot, or at the very least develop the equivalent of freezer burn, which diminishes the nutritional value of the stored winter supply. Without adequate food to feed their young (and sometimes themselves) birds are simply not laying eggs.




     These birds are quite confiding and it gives visitors great pleasure to stretch out their hands and experience the joy that contact with a wild creature uniquely brings. Most people provide sunflower seeds or peanuts, a welcome supplement for the birds, but as we witnessed, visitor largesse is not always benign - we saw a well-meaning woman feeding them banana bread.


     Grey Jay is a northern species, and Algonquin Provincial Park is its southern limit. We can only hope that it will continue to do well in the vast boreal forests of northern Ontario and beyond.
     Grey Jay (also sometimes called Canada Jay, and in times past Whisky Jack or Camp Robber) is Canada's unofficial national bird. A poll was organized a couple of years ago by Canadian Geographic Society and Grey Jay was the clear winner (in case you are wondering it was not my choice!), but the Government of Canada has never officially enacted the necessary legislation to enshrine it as our national birds.


     It's understandable; they are far too busy trying to get pipelines approved, against the wishes of everyone who lives along their routes. People protesting construction and extension of pipelines routinely get arrested, including recently the leader of the Green Party of Canada. Now that's important stuff. Who has time for a national bird?

42 comments:

  1. Sad to hear they may be in trouble.

    Very cute 'crow' anyway...........

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  2. A beautiful bird and sorry that they do not have the right conditions to live and there are fewer and fewer. Wonderful photos, and grugie is great from the end. Greetings.

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  3. Hello David!:) It's a beautiful bird, and your photos are lovely. I'm amazed that they are so trusting, but hungry birds will be more confiding. It's a shame that their food stores are being spoiled by the change in climate. Many thanks for introducing me to this lovely Grey Jay.

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  4. Hello, the Gray jay is beautiful. I enjoyed finding this bird out west, mainly during trips to Washington State and Montana. Beautiful photos. It is a shame to hear their numbers are on the decline. Pipelines are a sore subject for me, they tend to leak and destroy habitat and the water around them. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

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  5. Great images of cute bird. Nice new week to You and Your family David.

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  6. It really bugs me that so many animals and birds are going into decline and governments are not interested in general. If it is not the weather, it poaching or hunters trying to boost their ego and show how clever they think they are.
    The Grey Jay is beautiful and I hope that some way of boosting numbers is found.
    Have a good week Diane

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  7. Such a very pretty bird - new to me. A worthy bird to be officially 'national'. As for its manner of eating / storing food. Are there other birds which preserve food in the same way? I don't know much about birds so ravens are the only birds I've been aware of that store food in any way.

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    1. Many other birds store food (e.g. tits and chickadees, nuthatches etc.) but none in quite the same way as a Grey Jay.

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  8. Hari OM
    What a delightful wee feathery! Another Canadian blogpal over in Alberta has been relating the whole pipeline fiasco. It is rather sickening.

    Out of curiosity, what was your choice for national bird? YAM xx

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    1. I voted for Common (Northern) Raven - a highly intelligent bird, robust, thrives in all weathers, tough as nails - and it is found in all provinces and territories. Seemed to personify Canada to me.

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    2. ...oh yes, fair enough! I am fond of the Corvid family myself. Yxx

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  9. Grey Jay is such a beautiful bird David!
    Sad to hear they are going into decline.
    Stunning pictures!
    Dimi...

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  10. Hi Both,
    What a delightful Jay, considerably larger then I first imagined until I saw the image of it feeding on the glove.
    Such a shame its in trouble due to global warming, and of course our favourite US president says 'no such thing', give him time but hopefully not overlong to get his brain in gear.
    Super post.
    All the best, John

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  11. A beautiful little bird and it's sad that the Gray Jay is going into decline due to global warming.
    What amazes me that the Gray Jay can be trained to be fed from your palm.

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    1. Other species will do it too, Kaya, chickadees, nuthatches, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers occasionally, and of course everyone is familiar with pigeons being hand fed by people. Antpittas in South America will come to hand too. I am sure there are other species I am not aware of.

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  12. I'm sorry about the declining number of these Jays ... and sorry about the pipeline ... and sorry we are all in such trouble, but you already know that. I was all set to ask you if this was the same bird we know as 'Camp Robbers' and then you mentioned it. But as you said this gray jay is a northern species, I guess the nird we know in the Pacific Northwest (and called camp robber when we were young )) is a different gray jay.
    '

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    1. It could be the same species, Sallie, if it was at high elevation, which replicates northern environments.

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  13. What a darling little bird.
    Hope all turns out well.

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  14. Hej David!

    Vilken förtjusande liten fågel men tyvärr åter en sorglig historia om de umbäranden naturen och dess invånare drabbas av på grund av klimatförändringar. Det händer hela tiden, överallt på vår planet, artutrotningen är skrämmande. Jag har läst några böcker av den kanadensiska författarinnan Naomi Klein så jag är medveten om vilka strider som pågår omkring dessa pipelines som dras över urinvånarnas land.

    Även om här finns en medvetenhet om klimatförändringar så har vi också vår beskärda del av de som förnekar klimathotet. Problemet är att våra förtroendevalda gör en massa saker som jag brukar kalla "as if" som om man verkligen tar detta på allvar - ofta är det bara skenåtgärder. För ingen säger det som måste sägas, att vår överkonsumtion skadar vår planet.

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    1. It is indeed sad what we have done, and continue to do to the only home we have, Gunilla. We never learn do we?

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  15. Hi David.

    Beautiful bird.
    It's a shame they are getting less in numbers.
    The advantage of feeding, they stay in place, the disadvantage people sometimes think that animals can eat anything and then sometimes it goes wrong.

    Groettie from Patricia.

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  16. So pretty, little bird. Sad to hear about this,there are many birds who are threatened.
    I recently read this quote; "Little birds sing the prettiest songs", I love to here these songs now!!

    Ida

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  17. What a gorgeous bird it is, David. So sorry to hear that it is suffering through global warming. I was totally unaware of its unusual food-storing strategy. Fortunately for me, its range in the west of North America spreads much more southward than it does over on your side of the continent. Grey Jay was one of the highlights of my visit to Colorado in 2008.

    With love to you both - - - Richard

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    1. You are correct, Richard. It follows the spine of the Rockies south and is well able to survive at those high elevations.

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  18. Lovely photos David but isn't it frustrating to say the least to watch what some of those in charge do to our countries, it's all about money for them and they don't think of the wider consequences!

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  19. Hi David,
    Oh I understand why this amazing bird has all theses rings !!! What a beautiful mixture of two species. The head looks like a tit and it has the body of your blue jay.
    Why doesn't he move his nesting period ? His behavior doesn't change ? In France, tit have this problem with butterfly caterpillars, because birds nest when temperatures rise but caterpillars have not yet arrived.
    The tit can be easily adjusted with the available food.
    Sorry David, but I don't believe in the Canadian government.... Biodiversity is not important to him...
    Bye my friend and thank you very much for this new species for me and all yours informations !

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  20. Hi David,

    What a beautiful bird! It's sad that they don't thrive. Many animals die, and we humans never learn.

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  21. Absolutely adorable bird.. Nice pictures.. Congrats..

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  22. Absolutely stunning little Gray Jay, and, I love the one sitting on hand, pretty.

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  23. I have never seen a Gray Jay. What a BEAUTIFUL little bird. It is so sad that their numbers are declining. We have done ourselves a great disservice in preservation of flora and fauna! Diana

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  24. Hi David - thanks for the visit ... I find it so incredible how nature over the millennia has created wonderful attributes for its living creatures, as well as the land etc ... I sincerely hope the little Jay will survive and adapt to the different conditions. So many birds are having to alter their habitat ... fascinating to learn this - cheers Hilary

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    1. The problem is, Hilary, that so many of them are so habitat and/or diet specific that they cannot change rapidly enough.

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  25. Not a bird I'd heard of before and we have nothing like it on this side of the water as far as I know. It doesn't really look much like a corvid to my eye either. A very interesting post.

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    1. It certainly evokes a feeling of “cuteness” and looks positively cuddly.

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  26. That's a very interesting and unusual way of storing food. After your explanation I can see how the species is very susceptible to a a succession of warmer, wetter winters. As you say David, let's hope the species is doing better in the far north. It is certainly a very lovely bird but one that doesn't immediately bring the Jay family into mind.

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  27. The grey jay is a beautiful bird! I do hope these birds will find better suitable places.

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  28. Hi David,
    it's a beautiful bird and also it looks to be cute.
    So sorry to read also this species is in trouble. I'm afraid climate change will bring a lot of changes all around our planet.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  29. Such a lovely looking bird, I'm pleased you shared your photographs.

    All the best Jan

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  30. Hello David, this is a stunning bird and great to see its coming to eat from the hand. Sorry to read that this bird also has difficult times due to climat change.
    Warm regards,
    Roos

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  31. When Rick cycled Canada, he camped in Algonquin, but I'm doubting he saw this beauty. Pity for him -- it's just a beautiful bird and fascinating background. Thanks for that.

    And thanks too for visiting me over at Marmelade Gypsy! You do write wonderful comments.

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  32. What a beautiful bird !! Thanks for sharing these great photos !!
    David, I wish you and your family a Happy Easter !!
    Greetings

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  33. I did see this bird on my trip to Yellowstone and Teton 5 months ago. Loved it!

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