By Kim Nilsen
What is a Whiskey Jack? If you were raised and live in the North Country, you know. No, it is not alcohol. A whiskey jack is a Canada Jay, a member of the Corvidae family of aves (jay, crows, ravens) that, unlike blue jays, inhabit high elevation boreal and subarctic forests. Winter and summer hikers know them well, for Canada jays very much love to see humans on high, particularly on summits. We are walking supermarkets to the birds, and they know it full well.
A Canada Jay. Photo courtesy of David Albeck
Each year on social media, hikers post photos and videos of the gray, white and black-colored birds feeding out of someone’s hand. And why not? How often in nature do we humans get a chance to be so close to a wild creature who is absolutely fearless in the presence of our sapien selves? My own granddaughter, when she was four, squealed with delight that the Canada jays atop Magalloway Mountain would alight on her outstretched hand to take sunflower seeds.
Remember, whiskey jacks are wild creatures and should eat wild foods. If you can’t resist feeding them a treat, present unsalted and unsweetened nuts and seeds for them to consume.
Enjoy their company on the Cohos Trail. You will find them in almost any upland environment in Coos County. You will not have to look for them. They know you are coming along well before you can spot them. They will fly in from all directions to size you up. And when you sit down to add some calories to your mammalian frame, they will swoop in close in the hopes they can help you lighten that burden in your pack just a wee bit.