Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter


from the the August 16, 2009 Newsletter, reporting on a visit to Crater Lake National Park in southwestern  Oregon:

Clark's Nutcrackers weren't the only Jay-Family species aggressively seeking handouts from picnickers at Crater Lake that day. For example, there was the above bird. That's a juvenile Gray Jay, PERISOREUS CANADENSIS, a permanent resident in most of Canada and Alaska south into upper elevations of much of the western US, the population expanding southward a bit during winter.

This dusky-plumaged young bird is so unlike the white, gray and black adult that I had to confirm its identity with my friend Romain. I read that juveniles retain this dark plumage until August, so this bird must be about ready to change.

The Gray Jay's two key habitat requirements appear to be: 1) having sufficiently cold temperatures to ensure successful storage of perishable food, and; 2) tree bark with pliable scales arranged shingle-like so that the bird can store its food by wedging it into the dry, concealed spaces up under the scales.

Also I read that the Gray Jay's food falls into four main categories: insects and spiders; berries and mushrooms; nestling birds and other small live animals such as mice and toads, and; carrion.

You can see, however, that during our visit the Gray Jay in the picture wasn't eating from any of those food groups. He was very seriously into watermelon.