|MANY will recognize the Canada Jay
by his local names, of which he has a large assortment.
He is called by the guides and lumbermen of the
Adirondack wilderness, "Whisky Jack" or
"Whisky John," a corruption of the Indian name,
"Wis-ka-tjon", "Moose Bird",
"Camp Robber", "Hudson Bay Bird",
"Caribou Bird", "Meat Bird",
"Grease Bird", and "Venison Heron."
To each of these names his characteristics have well
The Canada Jay is found only in the more northern parts of the United States, where it is a resident and breeds. In northern Maine and northern Minnesota it is most common; and it ranges northward through the Dominion of Canada to the western shores of Hudson Bay, and to the limit of timber within the Arctic Circle east of the Rocky Mountains.
Mr. Manly Hardy, in a special bulletin of the Smithsonian Institution, says, "They are the boldest of our birds, except the Chickadee, and in cool impudence far surpass all others. They will enter the tents, and often alight on the bow of a canoe, where the paddle at every stroke comes within eighteen inches of them. I know nothing which can be eaten that they will not take, and I had one steal all my candles, pulling them out endwise, one by one, from a piece of birch bark in which they were rolled, and another pecked a large hole in a keg of castile soap. A duck which I had picked and laid down for a few minutes had the entire breast eaten out by one or more of these birds. I have seen one alight in the middle of my canoe and peck away at the carcass of a beaver I had skinned.
|They often spoil deer saddles by
pecking into them near the kidneys. They do great damage
to the trappers by stealing the bait from traps set for
martens and minks, and by eating trapped game.
They will sit quietly and see you build a log trap and
bait it, and then, almost before your back is turned, you
hear their hateful "Ca-ca-ca," as they glide
down and peer into it. They will work steadily, carrying
off meat and hiding it. I have thrown out pieces, and
watched one to see how much he would carry off. He flew
across a wide stream and in a short time looked as bloody
as a butcher from carrying large pieces; but his patience
held out longer than mine. I think one would work as long
as Mark Twain's California Jay did trying to fill a
miner's cabin with acorns through a knot hole in the
roof. They are fond of the berries of the mountain ash,
and, in fact, few things come amiss; I believe they do
not possess a single good quality except industry."
Its flight is slow and laborious, while it moves on the ground and in trees with a quickness and freedom equal to that of our better known Bluejay.
The nesting season begins early, before the snow has disappeared, and therefore comparatively little is known about its breeding habits. It is then silent and retiring and is seldom seen or heard. The nest is quite large, made of twigs, fibers, willow bark, and the down of the cottonwood tree, and lined with finer material. The eggs, so far as is known, number three or four. They are of a pale gray color, flecked and spotted over the surface with brown, slate gray, and lavender.