Saturday, 19 July 2014

West Coast Creature Feature-The Curious Whiskey Jack

Adult whiskey jack by smallgirl
Juvenile whiskey jack by smallgirl
Also known as the Canada Jay or Gray Jay, the Whiskey Jack is a friendly mountain corvid that I frequently encounter while hiking on the local mountains. There are many subspecies spread across North America; the one pictured here is  the West Coast subspecies, P. c. griseus, found in southwestern BC and Vancouver Island, and parts of Coastal Washington and Oregon and mountains in Californa. They mate for life and usually have an assistant/helper bird while caring for hatchlings.

A friendly whiskey jack consuming seeds
These medium sized gray birds are curious and friendly. They have many nicknames, including camprobber, meat-bird, and lumberjack, due to their tendency to try to take food, or willingly accept food, from humans. They cache their food and retrieve it from memory. Foods include: insects, seeds, carrion, fruit, occasionally small birds/mammals. They also rob nests.

About the feeding photo...I have very strong mixed feelings about feeding wildlife. I am absolutely against feeding wild mammals (safety for the animals and the people), but I have read credible research supporting backyard bird feeders with appropriate seeds. Obviously me feeding seeds to this whiskey jack by hand in a wild space where there is food readily available does not qualify as backyard bird feeding. In this photo, I am continuing to contribute to this bird's habituation to humans (it is at a very well-attended alpine lake). Will this action make the bird forget its evolved instincts? Will this action help the bird cache more food for the winter? I don't know the answers, but I (selfishly?) cherish the moments when I can bond with a wild thing.

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