Whisky-Jacks are a familiar sight in the woods

You cannot spend much time in the north woods without becoming familiar with the Whisky-Jack.
He will drift out of the trees in the coldest weather to share your lunch–stealing the beans from your plate and your sandwich while you reach for the coffee.
This bird is one of the jay family. Apparently in one Indian dialect, he was called wiss-ka-jon (spelled a hundred different ways). It didn’t take long for lumberjacks to start calling him “whisky-john,” and then, of course, “whisky-jack.”
We always used to formally call it the Canada Jay but the name was finally formalized into the rather dull Gray Jay.
The Gray Jay looks to be larger than its close relative, the Blue Jay. This is because it fluffs up its feathers, which already are fluffier anyway.
Watch it in flight. It seems to float through the trees without any noise. It can sail and bank with ease. This silent flight is the result of those very fluffy feathers, too.
A year-round resident, the Gray Jay is a true northern bird. It ranges from the border to the north. It also is very definitely a bird of the ever-green woods, preferring spruce and fir to anything else.
Like other jays and crows (which are its close relatives), it will eat almost anything. This includes berries, nuts, fruit, insects, other birds’ eggs, carrion, mice, frogs, and so on.
In lumber camps, it will handle any and all food scraps, and any food it can get which isn’t scraps, and assorted other camp materials like soap, grease, and toothpaste.
It is a bird which will become almost ridiculously tame. It will sit in your hand, your shoulder, your head, or your dinner plate after a very short acquaintance.
These jays are very tidy, and also very secretive about their nests. It is always in a small evergreen, snuggled right up to the trunk. The nest is quite a bulky affair of sticks and leaves but very carefully lined with hair, feathers, and fine grasses.
The young birds mature in about two weeks or so. Young Gray Jays are almost totally dark gray. It takes about a year for the light gray, white, and black to appear.
So when you are out in the woods, keep your eye out for Perisoreus canadensis, the Gray Jay. If you are dressing out a deer, he will be hanging around. If you are having lunch, he will want to swipe some.
If you live anywhere near the evergreen woods, he will be the easiest bird in the world to attract to your feeder.
Whatever you call him–Canada Jay, Gray Jay, Whisky-Jack–he is the most sociable bird in the woods.

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