For the Birds: Oh yeah, it’s not a gray jay anymore

Photo by Chris Bosak A Canada jay perches in a tree in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.

While on my unsuccessful moose search in northern Maine recently, I came across a bird found only in points north of middle New England. 

I knew what it was and launched the field guide app on my phone to gather a little information on the species.

To my surprise, nothing showed up when I searched for the bird.

“How could that be?“ I asked myself. “I know what bird it is and I know what it’s called. Why would it not show up on a search in a field guide to North American birds?”

Then it hit me. I was searching the wrong name. The gray jay is no longer called the gray jay. It is back to being the Canada jay. It had formerly been known as the Canada jay, got switched to gray Jay, and in 2018, got changed back to Canada jay. I had known this before, and even mentioned it in a previous bird column, but had totally forgotten while I was in the field at that moment.

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For the Birds: Gray jay is out; Canada jay is in

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.

Well, I did it again. Apparently I’ve been using the wrong name for a bird for the past year or so.

Recall a few weeks ago when I wrote about the common gallinule that had been seen near the Dillant-Hopkins Airport. Many people, myself included, initially referred to the bird as a common moorhen, the name previously used for the bird. In 2011, the American Ornithologists’ Union changed the name to common gallinule after splitting the species from a similar bird in Europe and Asia.

I’m not as far behind on this latest name change. In May 2018, just about a year ago, the union changed the name of the gray jay to the Canada jay. The handsome, bold bird of the north was historically called the Canada jay anyway, so it was really a change back to an old name.

I wrote a column back in November about a trip to Pittsburg, during Continue reading