Friday, October 9, 2009

Camp Robber


This is a Gray Jay, or as they are most commonly called around here, a Camp Robber.

They are also called Canadian Jays, or Whiskey Jacks.

I have written about them before somewhere on this blog. Camp Robbers are my favorite bird, with Ravens a very close second.

Camp Robbers are very interesting birds. They make nests and lay eggs early in the spring while temps are still well below freezing. The female sits on the eggs constantly to keep them from freezing and she is fed by the male.

When other birds are just starting to lay eggs, Camp Robber chicks are already fledging and learning how to fly.

Camp Robbers are opportunistic eaters. While they do hunt small insects and eat seed or berries, they are persistent scavengers. This caribou was in the meat shed at Spud Farm. It was gutted and laying on the table waiting to be cut and packaged. One night while I was there a grizzly bear tore open the meat shed and stole the caribou. It dragged it into the bushes. What you see was all that was left, and the camp robbers were in heaven.

They spent the whole afternoon flying back and forth from the carcass to the woods and back. Camp Robbers cache food for the winter. They put pieces of food in their mouth and coat it with their sticky saliva. They then hide the food in trees to eat later.

One of the most fun things about these birds is they are almost fearless. They will often land on your hand for a piece of food. Even when you are in and area where they are not used to humans, Camp Robbers will be bold and fly near you to get to food.

Camp Robbers and ravens are the only bird who stay here year round. Their caches of food make it possible for them to survive the brutal winter conditions of the northwest arctic region of Alaska.

Some people consider these birds a nuisance because they pick at fish and meat that is hung to dry. I don't mind. I figure they don't eat much. They are an unique bird and fun to watch.



Anonymous said...

Tough little birds. They don't seem too scared of you and your camera.
Do the grizzlies ever try to get to the inhabitants of the cabins instead of the meat locker?

Gloria said...

Since I love all kinds of birds, that was very interesting. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

How interesting!! I saw ravens for the first time in my life at Sitka. Camp robbers and neat!


Trish said...

okay, you seem a little to calm about the grizzly bear........

I love that you are so smart!

There's always something to be learned from you.

Kathy said...

Great pics of the "Camp Robbers"!
I didn't know they stayed there all year long, that far north!!

That griz certainly cleaned off that caribou if fast time!!

Auntie said...

Happy birthday, Cathy!
from Auntie & Uncle Bill

Anonymous said...

I am from Alaska and live in Florida now, the pictures are great, it's always nice to read about Alaska.

molly said...

Great photos! I live in northern Idaho and have three camp robbers that visit us almost every morning. We have a lot of conifer seed bugs trying to get in our house and the robbers will sit on our railing in front of the windows and eat them for us. I love how they don't mind us watching them.

Thunderpen said...

Hey! Loved your site as I was passing through researching Camp Robbers. I've worked summers in AK and love it (can you say Snow Bird?), although I am from Montana and that is hard to beat.

Around here we have very large Ravens. A few friends and family consider ourselves a Raven Clan. At times I will put a raven feather in my hat and with an ax, take a quarter or two off a fresh roadkill. Meat is still good.

I've established to my satisfaction, without using any latinate names, that Camp Robbers are 1) Gray Jays, 2) Clarks Nutcrackers, or 2) Magpies.

Once again loved your site.

I'd move our clan to Alaska except I am at the age now where it might be a little late to homestead anew. It's getting a bit crowded down in the lower 48.