May 01, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
North Vancouver, Bird Watching
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I know this type of bird as a whiskey-jack, but it goes by a long list of other names: Gray Jay (its official name), Canada Jay (its past official name), meat-bird, and camp-robber (the last two are due to its cheekiness and appetite).
Whiskey-jacks are curious and bold. Many like to supplement their natural diet (insects, berries, mushrooms, carrion or small animals) with people food (trail mix and sandwiches).
On a recent snowshoe trip at Mount Seymour, this particular whiskey jack zipped over as soon as we stopped to admire the view. My only offering was a sad, old apple I found at the bottom of my backpack. You can almost see the confusion on the bird’s face – “What the heck am I supposed to do with this?!”
My favourite whiskey-jack feature – aside from the fact that they’re pretty darn cute, especially when you get a photo of one sitting on your head – is how they store their food. They have large salivary glands and use them to coat their meal in bird-spit, and then hide these saliva-laden packages in the trees. This food storage technique helps them survive winter in snowy forests.
So, next time you’re in the mountains and stop to take a breather, look around. You may gain a feathery lunchtime buddy if you’re willing to part with a little bit of trail mix