Birds Blog

Grey Jay vs. Gray Jay: Don’t Shoot the Editor

Grey Jay, or Gray Jay? G-r-a-y is the spelling of the American English version of the British English version of "Grey".

Grey Jay, or Gray Jay? (I promise. This post is about birds — sorta.)

G-r-a-y is the spelling of the American English version of the British English version of “Grey”. Confused? Good. It’s on purpose!

To Grey Jay, or not to Grey Jay

British English is the English that Canadians use and because of that, I will use “Grey” when referring to the Grey Jay. When I write about this particular bird, it is in reference to Canada where the spelling of it is: g-r-e-y jay.

Added to that reason, is the fact that I lived abroad and studied World English in graduate school. Therefore, when I began my career as a writer/editor (over a decade ago) I worked in British English.

Image Credit: Audubon Free Library Plate 107 Canada Jay Final
Image Credit: Audubon Free Library Plate 107 Canada Jay Final

Sign up for The Animal Perspectives Monthly and get updated on wild birds.

Don’t Shoot the Editor

Because I chose to be a writer/editor (despite finding myself swimming through what amounts to language soup in my mind — that’s an entirely different story/blog) I do a lot of double checking. However, the rules of writing vary from style-to-style, job-to-job, and person-to-person. Also, nobody is perfect.

Having written several style manuals, and having contributed to many more, I have learned that there is more value in being flexible, than there is in being rigid. The most rigid branch of a tree snaps in the wind, right?

Unfortunately, this doesn’t render me immune to the opinions and scrutiny of others. And that’s OK because it contributes to my growth as a writer/editor.

I am not unique in this regard.

Gray Jay? Gray Goose?

When the Royal Canadian Geographical Society announced that it would name the Grey Jay as Canada’s (unofficial) national bird, the bird was put in the spotlight and so was the spelling of its name.

The CBC received a lot of input on how to spell the name of the bird, from its readers. Many complained that the spelling was G-r-a-y Jay not G-r-e-y Jay.

Naturally, the CBC did some digging and learned that both “grey” and “gray” were accepted by the International Ornithological Committee (IOC). I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.

While the American spelling of “grey” (that is “gray”) has been showing up more in Canadian English, the official spelling in Canada is still, g-r-e-y.

One thing that sticks out in my mind is the vodka “Grey Goose”. If you’re familiar with that brand, could you imagine it being sold as “Gray Goose”? It just looks weird to me and the same goes for the Grey Jay.

Here’s an idea: how about we just end the confusion and call the bird a “Whisky Jack”?


Interested in learning more about what you just read? Sign up for The Animal Perspectives Monthly.

Become a Patron of Animal Perspectives!

Learn More About Wild Birds

New Book Available: The 15-Minute Birder

Why I Dumped My Bird Bath This Week and Why You Should Too

Sexual Dimorphism in Birds

Wordless Wednesday: Green Heron

Found a Baby Bird? Here’s What to Do