In what may be a world first, an Alberta bird conservation group has successfully installed a webcam near a grey jay nest, offering an intimate look at the breeding behaviour of this thoroughly Canadian bird.
Ellis Bird Farm, located in Lacombe, is both a working farm and non-profit organization providing habitat to encourage the nesting of mountain bluebirds, tree swallows and other species, as well as facilities and programs to educate the public about bird conservation. They're also supporters of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society's recommendation that the grey jay be adopted as the official national bird of Canada.
Grey jays typically build their nests high off the ground, close to the trunks of mature conifers, when the snow in their remote boreal habitat is still deep, so they can be difficult to spot.
"Grey jay nests are notoriously hard to find, so it was a great honour to be offered the opportunity to install this cam on a nest in the Caroline area," writes the group on their website. "We thought it fitting to enable the world to have a rare opportunity to watch the nesting activities of Canada's national bird, especially during this, Canada's 150th anniversary year."
The webcam went live on March 18; the first egg appeared in the nest on March 25 and was joined by a second egg the following day. A third egg appeared March 27. Female jays usually have two to five eggs, which they will incubate for around 18 days while their male partners bring them food. If all goes well, the public will be able to watch new grey jays open their eyes on the world by the middle of the second week of April.