"Robert McCaw photo. Environment Canada/Canadian Wildlife Federation Wildspace." GRAY JAY (Perisoreus canadensis) 10"-13" Gray Jays are maybe better known in Whistler as Whiskey Jacks, a name whose origin is likely Indian (from "wis-ka-chon"). These common forest birds get their less-flattering nickname of "camp robber" from their habit of surrounding hikers, skiers and campers for scraps of food. Once the Jay acquires food, it uses its saliva to hold the scraps together in little balls then caches the balls by attaching them to tree branches or trunks. It’s okay to feed seeds or nuts to these friendly beggars but processed food will make them (and other birds) sick. Gray Jays are related to other loud and personality-filled birds found in the Whistler area such as Crows, Ravens and Clark’s Nutcrackers. Like a lot of these birds from the Corvid family, the Jay has some interesting vocalizations which correspond to the situation: if threatened it screams, if begging it whistles, if irritated it scolds. Early in the winter, Gray Jays will usually begin to build a very weather-resistant nest made of twigs and lined with thick layers of lichens, moss, fine grass, fur and feathers. The adult Jay will collect these materials for months before constructing the nest. Found in most forested regions across Canada, the Gray Jay is truly a Canadian bird (hence the "canadensis" in their Latin name). Next time you’re skiing or walking in a coniferous forest, look in the trees and you’re likely to see the Gray Jay. To get a close up view of these bold birds, try lunch at the Raven’s Nest or Crystal Hut — the food always guarantees lots of sightings. (Please contact Leigh Edwards at Leighe11@hotmail.com to report sightings.) Upcoming Events: Feb. 5 — Monthly Bird Walk. Meet at the base of Lorimer Road at 8 a.m. Contact Michael Thompson (932-5010) for more information. Feb. 6 — Nature on Snowshoes (Noon-4 p.m.). Contact Marlene Siemens (938-9690) to register. Feb. 17 (date and location to be confirmed next week) — Monthly Speaker Series. Max Gotz presents "The role of banding in bird conservation." To join the Whistler Naturalists, please call Bob Brett (938-8900) or Marlene Siemens (938-9690).