10-13" (25-33 cm). Dark gray above and light gray below. Wings and tail feathers are lighter on edges. White hood has a dark gray crown and/or nape. Immatures are more uniformly gray.
Similar Species- Other jays.
Short, hollow whistled notes as well as jay-like cackling. Usually quiet.
Breeds from western and central Alaska, east across Canada, and south to northern California, eastern Oregon, Idaho, Utah, eastern Arizona, northern New Mexico, Colorado, portions of Great Plains and Great Lakes states, and New England. Winters mainly through breeding range.
Found in coniferous and mixed coniferous/deciduous forests (primarily spruce), including open and partly-open woodlands and around bogs. Often found around campgrounds. In preliminary results of northern Idaho study, Gray Jays were more abundant in fragmented than in continuous stands of old-growth forest.
Omnivorous. Feeds on insects, berries, lichen, mice, carrion, and scraps from campsites. Probably eats birds' eggs.
Builds cup-shaped nest in coniferous (sometimes deciduous) tree, usually near trunk. Usually seen in small family groups or in pairs. Forages on ground, or sometimes in foliage. Stores food.
Female incubates 2-5 eggs (usually 3-4), for 16-18 days. Young are tended by both adults, and are capable of first flight when about 15 days old. Nest early, late Feb. or early March, using cached foo for female and young.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Hejl, S.J. and L.C. Paige. 1993. Birds in continuous and fragmented forests of western red cedar/western hemlock in northern Idaho: a preliminary assessment. Draft manuscript, USDA Forest Service Inter. Res. Sta., Missoula. 18pp.