The Whiskey Jack

Gray Jay perched on a branch.


From the files of “Hinterland Who’s Who”

  • The Gray Jay is indelibly associated with Canada’s great northern forests.
  • Quick to learn that humans can be an excellent source of food, the Gray Jay often visits lumber camps, kills made by hunters, and the campsites of canoeists, looking for scraps of anything edible.
  • The bird’s fearless and venturesome behaviour has amused and irked those who work in the forest and earned it many colloquial names such as “meat-bird” and “camp-robber”.
  • Another familiar name, “whiskey-jack”, was taken from Wiskedjak, Wisagatcak, Wisekejack, or other variations of a word used in the Algonquian family of aboriginal languages of eastern Canada to designate a mischievous, transforming spirit who liked to play tricks on people.
  • The Gray Jay is thus the only Canadian bird for which a name of aboriginal derivation has been commonly used in English.
  • Perhaps sadly, whiskeyjack and the former English name of Canada Jay are both passing into disuse as more and more Canadians grow up with the present official English name of Gray Jay.

To read the entire article, click here on “Whiskey Jack”