Family Crows and Jays (Corvidae)

Least Concern

Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)


French: Mésangeai du Canada German: Meisenhäher Spanish: Arrendajo canadiense

Corvus canadensis


, 1766,

Quebec, Canada


Size tends to increase clinally from S to N (and perhaps from coast towards interior). Three subspecies groups here based on plumage coloration, head pattern and size: “canadensis group” with large body and relatively dark plumage, “capitalis group” with much paler crown, and single-taxon “obscurus group” with small body and much paler (white) below; these groupings supported by phylogenetic analysis#R, which also suggested that N Rockies populations (bicolor) represent a fourth clade and found that divergence was greatest between obscurus (in the past treated as a separate species) and all other populations. Other proposed races include arcus (Coast district, in British Columbia) and griseus (L Keechelus, in Washington), both subsumed into obscurus; and nigricapillus (Labrador) and sanfordi (Newfoundland), included in nominate. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. c. pacificus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Alaska and NW Canada (Yukon and NW British Columbia).
  • P. c. canadensis (Linnaeus, 1766) – Northern Grey Jay – N Canada from Mackenzie River Delta E to Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, S to N Alberta, C Saskatchewan and S Manitoba, S in N USA to NE Minnesota E to N New England.
  • P. c. bicolor A. H. Miller, 1933 – NC Rocky Mts from SE British Columbia S in USA to E Washington, E Oregon and Idaho.
  • P. c. capitalis S. F. Baird, 1874 – Rockies Grey Jay – S Rocky Mts in E Idaho, W Wyoming, C Utah, W Colorado, EC Arizona and NC New Mexico.
  • P. c. albescens J. L. Peters, 1920 – E Rocky Mts (from SE Yukon, S Northwest Territories, NE British Columbia and NW & C Alberta) E to C Saskatchewan and WC Manitoba, S in USA to E Montana, NE Wyoming and Black Hills of South Dakota.
  • P. c. obscurus Ridgway, 1874 – Pacific Grey Jay – SW British Columbia (including Vancouver I) and W USA in W Washington (Olympic Peninsula and Cascade Mts), Oregon (Cascade and Coast Ranges) and extreme N California.
  • Descriptive notes

    27–31 cm; 50–85 g. A small, crestless, long-tailed jay with grey, white and black plumage. Nominate race has forehead, forecrown, face, neck and upper breast... read more


    A very quiet-voiced corvid, often seen before it is heard. Accomplished mimic (often of various... read more


    Coniferous and mixed conifer-deciduous (especially Populus and Acer) forests of N... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous. Diet includes beetles (Coleoptera), Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera, flies (Diptera), bugs (Hemiptera), Orthoptera; also spiders (... read more


    Nesting begins in late winter, when snow is substantial, laying late Feb to mid-Apr. Permanent monogamous pair-bond. In Algonquin... read more


    Resident; most pairs spend entire breeding life on a single territory. Some annual movements in S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common. Populations generally stable; range contracting in some S areas (Alberta, Michigan, Quebec) and potentially at substantial risk from... read more

    Recommended citation

    Marzluff, J. (2020). Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 1 April 2020).