Alberta Map
Alberta Map

Introduction

Over its decade-plus of operations, the ABMI has generated a comprehensive dataset on Alberta’s species, their habitats, and the extent and type of human footprint across the province. With this information, the ABMI has developed analyses to predict species' relative abundances and examine species' responses to vegetation and soil types, as well as human footprint in Alberta. These methods have been applied to hundreds of species; this profile provides summary results for one.

Habitat & Human Footprint Associations

The Gray Jay inhabits coniferous and mixedwood forests throughout Alberta, usually in association with spruce trees. It is dependent on conifers for nesting habitat and food storage. As a generalist species, the Gray Jay is often found near human-influenced areas such as campgrounds and forest edges. 

Species-habitat Associations in the Forested Region

Forested Region - Species Habitat Association Graph: Predicted species relative abundance (bars) as a function of vegetation and human footprint type in the forested region. Dots are added to forest types where harvesting occurs and show the predicted species abundance in cutblocks of various ages. Vertical lines represent 90% confidence intervals.

  • Gray Jay relative abundance is highest in mid-aged to old black spruce and larch stands in the forested region, but it is also high in other types of forest stand that include conifers such as White Spruce and Pine.
  • In cutblocks, Gray Jay relative abundance increases with forest age in White Spruce and Pine stands; in addition, abundance is similar between harvested and naturally disturbed stands of the same age.

Species-habitat Associations in the Prairie Region

Non-Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Non-Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Treed Sites in the Prairie Region

Prairie Region - Species Habitat Association Graph: Predicted species relative abundance (bars) in each soil type and human footprint type in the prairie region. Vertical lines indicate 90% confidence intervals. The presence/absence of trees greatly affects the presence and abundance of many species; therefore, separate figures are presented for treed and non-treed sites in the prairie region.

  • Gray Jay relative abundance is greater at treed compared to non-treed sites in the prairie region; Gray Jay is virtually absent from non-treed sites.
  • Gray Jay relative abundance is highest in productive and clay soil types in the prairie region.

Relationship to Linear Footprint


Relationship to Linear Footprint in the Forest Region



Linear Footprint Graph: Species relative abundance predicted for habitat with no human footprint compared to habitat in which 10% of the area is converted to either soft or hard linear footprint.

  • Gray Jay relative abundance is predicted to have no relationship with soft linear footprint and a negative relationship with hard linear footprint in the forested region.

Relationship to Linear Footprint in the Prairie Region



Linear Footprint Graph: Species relative abundance predicted for habitat with no human footprint compared to habitat in which 10% of the area is converted to either soft or hard linear footprint.

  • Gray Jay relative abundance is predicted to have no relationship with either soft or hard linear footprint in the prairie region.

Impacts of Human Footprint

While trees are required for nesting and food storage, the Gray Jay will readily forage along forest edges, in openings, and along road margins; it can also tolerate forest harvesting provided there is residual tree retention. They often travel more slowly along edges, indicating prime foraging habitat. 

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Human Footprint Effects in the Forested Region

Sector effect graph: Changes to species relative abundance (number above or below bar) attributed to the footprint of five sectors: agriculture, forestry, energy, rural/urban footprint, and transportation. The y-axis shows the percent population change per unit area of the sector's footprint. The x-axis shows the total area occupied by each sector's footprint in the region. The areas of the sector-specific rectangle (equal to the unit effect multiplied by the area of footprint) is the total effect of the sector on the species relative abundance in the region.

  • The unit effect of all sectors is predicted to result in small decreases in Gray Jay relative abundance in the forested region compared to reference conditions.

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Human Footprint Effects in the Prairie Region

Sector effect graph: Changes to species relative abundance (number above or below bar) attributed to the footprint of five sectors: agriculture, forestry, energy, rural/urban footprint, and transportation. The y-axis shows the percent population change per unit area of the sector's footprint. The x-axis shows the total area occupied by each sector's footprint in the region. The areas of the sector-specific rectangle (equal to the unit effect multiplied by the area of footprint) is the total effect of the sector on the species relative abundance in the region.

  • All human footprint categories have negative unit effects on Gray Jay relative abundance in the prairie region.
  • Forestry has a very strong negative unit effect on the Gray Jay in the prairie region, but because of the small area this footprint occupies, results in a small predicted decrease in relative abundance compared to reference conditions.
  • Agriculture footprint, because of the large area it occupies, has the strongest overall effect on Gray Jay relative abundance, resulting in a predicted decrease in relative abundance compared to reference conditions.

Predicted Relative Abundance

The Gray Jay is found throughout Alberta but primarily in the Boreal Forest, Foothills, Canadian Shield, and Rocky Mountain Natural Regions. 

Reference Conditions

  • The reference condition shows the predicted relative abundance of the Gray Jay after all human footprint had been backfilled based on native vegetation in the surrounding area.

Current Conditions

  • The current condition is the predicted relative abundance of the Gray Jay taking current human footprint (circa 2012) into account.

Difference Conditions

  • Gray Jay relative abundance is predicted to have decreased across much of its range in Alberta.

Other Issues

According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, Gray Jay populations have been roughly stable over the last 50 years. 

References & Credits

References & Credits

Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 2016. All About Birds: Gray Jay. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Jay . Accessed September 10, 2016.

Ibarzabal, J., and A. Desrochers. 2004. A nest predator's view of a managed forest: Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) movement patterns in response to forest edges. Auk 121(1):162-169.

Strickland, Dan and Henri R. Ouellet. (2011). Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/gryjay.

Thompson, R.G., I.G. Warkentin, and S.P. Flemming. 2008. Response to logging by a limited but variable nest predator guild in the boreal forest. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38(7):1974-1982.

Data Sources

Information from ABMI bird point counts was combined with information from other organizations and individuals:

  • Environment Canada (North American Breeding Bird Survey and Joint Oil Sands Monitoring programs)
  • Ecological Monitoring Committee for the Lower Athabasca (EMCLA)
  • Dr. Erin Bayne (University of Alberta)

Photo Credits

Photos: TBD

Recommended Citation

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2017. Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis). ABMI Website: abmi.ca/home/data-analytics/biobrowser-home/species-profile?tsn=179667.

Additional ABMI Resources

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2016. ABMI Species Website Manual, Version: 2016-12-02. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2014. Manual for Species Modeling and Intactness, Version 2014-09-25. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute. 2014. Terrestrial field data collection protocols (abridged version) 2016-05-18. Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute, Alberta, Canada. Report available at: abmi.ca.

Download ABMI Species and Habitat Data.

View ABMI Collaborations.

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