Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of American Folklore


The American Folklore Society, Inc.

Publication Date


Publisher location

Montpelier, VT

First Page


Last Page


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Volume Number


Abstract/ Summary

The Canada Jay labors under the official name of Perisoreus canadensis canadensis but it is more commonly called gorbey, moose-bird, meat-bird, greasebird, Whiskey Jack, Whiskey John, Hudson Bay bird, caribou bird, venison hawk, grey jay, woodsman's friend, or camp robber. Maine woodsmen usually call it either gorbey or moose-bird. It is a native of the northern coniferous forests, which means that it is found all through Canada but only in the northernmost areas of the northernmost states of the Union. In the Northeast, it is found in northern Maine and over most of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Ernest Thompson Seton said it looked like "a magnified chickadee": it is a little larger than a robin and has thick, grey furry feathers over most of its body save for a white throat and forehead and a black cap. It will eat absolutely anything. It will peck at a deer carcass, steal bait out of traps, make off with soap and candles that have been left around a camp, and the Indians claim it will even eat moccasins and fur caps. It is a great hoarder and has a stomach that is bottomless. One story tells of a camp cook who threw out some stale doughnuts, only to see a gorbey fly down, put his left foot through one doughnut, his right foot through another, grab yet another with his beak, and thus make off to a nearby tree with three doughnuts. Over and over I have had woodsmen tell me how these birds would appear around a lunch-ground deep in the woods. There would only be a couple the first day, but more and more would gather as time went on, and they got so tame that they would sit on your knee or shoulder, eat out of your hand, or, if you were not careful, steal food right off your plate.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Ives, E. D. (1961). The Man Who Plucked the Gorbey: A Maine Woods Legend. The Journal of American Folklore, 74(291), 1–8.


publisher's version of the published document

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