Like other jays, these are large, stout birds with short bills, rounded heads and long tails. The body is light gray with dark gray on the upper side of the body. A black “hood” covers the top of the head and down the back of the neck.
The jays are predatory birds, often going after nestling birds and unhatched eggs of other species although they will eat almost anything they can find. They are referred to as “scatterhoarders” because they will collect and store a variety of food items from different areas to sustain them through the winter months.
Males and females will form monogamous breeding pairs (having only one mate at a time) and begin building nests in March. The nests are cup-shaped and lined with dead twigs, bark and lichens. The female will lay a clutch of two to five eggs which hatch in approximately eighteen days.
The subspecies Perisoreus canadensis obscurus is also known as the Oregon Gray Jay and can be found in the coastal belt from Washington to northwestern California.
The jays are common among the pine forests of northern North America, stretching from Alaska to Newfoundland. Their southern range ends in central Arizona and New Mexico. In the Pacific Northwest, they are found from British Columbia to northern California. The birds live at lower elevations in coastal areas where the weather is sufficiently cold to preserve perishable food stores.
Photo credit: USFWS