Posted on February 26th, 2010 12 comments Add a comment >>
I’d like to start a new feature here on Notes from the field which I’ll call “Learn your boreal birds“. This title refers to the many species of birds that spend a majority of their time in the Boreal Forest region of North America.
What is boreal again? Boreal forests make up a fair percentage of our forested land in the Adirondacks. It’s made up of mostly coniferous trees or cone-bearing species (pine, spruce, fir, tamarack,cedar).
If you were to map out the boreal region on a globe, it would be shown as a continuous ring of green encompassing northern Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Siberia.
But as luck would have it, the Adirondacks, due to several factors including; soil, bedrock, local microclimates, and vegetation, has a version of boreal that we can see/access from many back roads throughout the region.
As we’ll see in future postings, some of our boreal birds are year-round residents and some are summer residents only. These summer only birds will spend the winter months down in the tropical regions of South and Central America and then migrate to the Adirondacks in the spring.
I’ll start this series with the year-round resident Gray Jay. Clicking this link will take you directly to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s(CLO) “All About Birds” website. If you look at the Jay’s home range map you’ll see a tiny dot where the Adirondacks are. We’re lucky because this is the only area in New York State where this jay can be found. Gray jays are related to all the family(Corvidae) members of the jays, crows, and ravens of North America.
You can read all about the life history of gray jay on CLO site but I’d like to focus on our Adirondack population. I’ll often find gray jays squealing and screeching along the Bloomingdale Bog trail(snowmobile trail in winter). I find the best part of the trail to see the jays is to drive to the northern access point (along County Rt 55) between Gabriels and Bloomingdale. Here you can walk south along the trail, and listen carefully as you do, for the high-pitched squawking the jays make as they approach the trial.
Over the past two summers, I’ve come across several pairs of gray jay with their very dark gray young(photo above right). This leads us to believe that gray jays have had several successful breeding seasons in a row. At one site I counted 4 young!
Gray jays have the wonderul ability to “stash” food in various places in the forest. They will often put food in the crotch of tree limbs, or bury it, or place it in an abandoned nest hole in a tree. All this so it has food(if it remembers where) to tide it over during the winter months.
Gray jays are rather tame and will often approach humans and feed out of hands…if there’s some good food in that hand. Keep some granola in your coat pocket if you’re heading into a bog.