Last year, in a public poll conducted by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Canadian citizens voted for an unofficial national bird to represent their country. The finalists were: the Canada Goose, long associated with the national identiy; the Common Loon, a bird featured on Canadian currency; the Black-capped Chickadee; the Snowy Owl; and the Gray Jay. The Common Loon won the popular vote, but the Gray Jay was selected by Canadian Geographic to be Canada's new national bird.
Some of the birds on the list were already recognized as official provincial birds in Canada: the Black-capped Chickadee of New Brunswick; the Common Loon of Ontario; and the Snowy Owl of Quebec.
Gray Jays are found in all of Canada's provinces and remain on location year-round. These plucky little gregarious birds are known for their intelligence. Other jays officially representing Canada are the official provicial birds of Yukon (Common Raven), Prince Edward Island (Blue Jay) and British Columbia (Steller's Jay).
Officially, Canada has two animal national symbols that are recognized by the federal government: the beaver and the Canadian Horse share the title of National Animal of Canada. It is unclear if the government will recognize the Gray Jay, or any other species, as the National Bird of Canada.
Blue Jays are large, bold songbirds that live across much of North America. They are common throughout their range, which includes the eastern two-thirds of the continent. Here are some facts about this familiar and widespread species.
- There are at least four subspecies of Blue Jay accepted by most authorities. The Florida Blue Jay weighs an average of just 74 grams, while Northern Blue Jays weigh in at 92 grams or more. Plumage differences between the subspecies are subtle, with some birds showing brighter plumage than others. The other two subspecies are the Coastal Blue Jay and the Interior Blue Jay.
- Blue Jays are omnivorous. They feed on a wide variety of food items, including large insects, acorns, bird seed, frogs, carrion, eggs from other birds, berries, and more. They love peanuts!
Blue Jay by Martin Cathrae [CC BY-SA 2.0]
- Blue Jays are in the Corvid family, a group of birds that includes crows and ravens and is known for intelligence and curiosity.
- Blue Jays are generally year-round residents throughout most of their range. Birds may move seasonally depending on availability of food. But jays are also known to migrate in huge flocks around the Great Lakes and on the Atlantic coast. The reasons for this great movement is a mystery.
- Blue Jays are skilled mimics. They are able to impersonate the calls of other birds, including raptors. A Blue Jay may mimic the call of a Red-tailed Hawk or a Red-shouldered Hawk in order to frighten other birds off of feeders so the jay can eat in peace. Calling out as a raptor may also serve to determine if any actual predatory birds are in the area.
- Blue Jays are known to mob potential predators. A Blue Jay or a group of jays that finds a predator, like a bird of prey or a snake, will call out a warning to other birds. They will also chase or dive-bomb predators to get them to leave the area.
- Blue Jays can raise or lower their crests. A crest at rest means the bird is relaxed. A raised crest indicates agression or excitement.
- Adult male and female Blue Jays look alike. They have the same coloration all year.
Blue Jay gathering nest material by Amy Evenstad for Birdorable
- Blue Jays mate for life.
- The longevity record for a Blue Jay living in captivity is over 26 years. The record for wild Blue Jays is over 17 years. This is known via bird banding programs.
- Blue Jays are particularly susceptible to West Nile virus. The disease can deccimate populations locally, but recent outbreaks have not significantly affected the global Blue Jay population.
- The Blue Jay is the official bird of the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.
This week we'd like to highlight one of our newest designs featuring our home state and a bird that is very close to our heart. The Florida Scrub-Jay is the only endemic bird of the state of Florida and, with only a few thousand breeding pairs left, considered vulnerable to extinction. Show your support for this highly intelligent and beautiful bird. The design shows our cute Birdorable Florida Scrub-Jay in front of a faint outline of the state and the text "Save the Florida Scrub-Jay", shown here on a green unisex American Apparel t-shirt, which is made of 100% fine jersey cotton and made in the USA.
A recent study involving Eurasian Jays found that the birds, related to Blue Jays and crows, demonstrate an aspect of intelligence previously thought only to exist in humans. Male Eurasian Jays present their mates with gifts as part of their natural pair-bonding behavior. In the study, male jays were given the option to present their mates with a gift of a mealworm larvae or a moth larvae. The male would observe the female bird eating either moth larvae or mealworm larvae, and depending on which the female had been eating, the male would offer her the other. The idea is that a "jay that’s gorged on moths will generally prefer to eat mealworms afterwards, and vice versa, just as a [human] satiated by chocolate will next take a slice of cake." This type of awareness of the feelings of others is called "theory of mind" and it was once believed that only humans had this kind of knowledge. You can read more about the study and see a short video of the experiment here: Gift-Giving Birds May Think Much Like People.
Today we proudly introduce the Birdorable Eurasian Jay!
The Eurasian Jay, known simply as Jay by English-speakers in its range, is a species of corvid that lives across much of Europe and parts of Asia and northern Africa.
Eurasian Jay DSC_3334_1 by luc.viatour
These colorful relatives of crows and ravens are known for their ability to mimic the calls of other bird species, including predators like Tawny Owls and Eurasian Buzzards. They use this ability to taunt and intimidate potential predators, along with mobbing behavior, to drive them away.
Tomorrow's bird is a colorful number from Down Under. Can you guess what it will be?