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?