Help Identify This Mystery Bird


Well, animal lovers, I've got a bit of a mystery here and can use your help trying to figure it out.

My friend Ryan had an odd animal sighting and sent me the following message on my Facebook page:

"Hi David, I need help in identifying a bird I saw today. I can't find it online. It was about the size of a robin/blue jay. It was perching on a phone wire and perched vertically with the tail straight below it.

-Gray body with a yellowish/gray belly. 
-Black head
-black "chin strap" that connected to black on head
-black wings
-white stripe on shoulder
-black tail with white portion on bottom inside part of tail
-black beak, pointy and long-ish

It's something I've never seen before and it's driving me crazy that I can't identify it! I'll sketch you a picture if it'll help. I thought it might be a gray jay (whiskey jack) but they don't seem to have the crest or the chin strap. Also thought it might be some kind of titmouse but they all seem too small.

Let me know if you have any idea what it could've been. Thanks!"

Nothing immediately sprang to mind that could be seen in Ottawa, Canada (where Ryan had the sighting), at this time of year, that had all those features. That said, I'm not an ornithologist, and I don't claim to have an encyclopeic knowledge of every single bird species out there.  

So I went to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" webpage and to my Peterson Birds of North America app, and combed through species profiles trying to figure out what this bird might be.  

Again, nothing.  

So I asked Ryan (who is an amazing artist) to do a sketch of what he saw.  This is what he provided:

Mystery Bird
Drawing by Ryan Browne.

What do you think?  Other than the color scheme, it looks identical to a blue jay.  I'm wondering if Ryan got lucky and spotted a blue jay with an odd mutation causing its colors to be different than normal, or even a blue jay hybrid of some kind. Or perhaps this is just a Canadian species with which I'm not familiar.

Anyone out there ever seen anything like this before?  

See my TV appearances and learn how to protect wildlife with National Wildlife Federation


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >







stay connected

our sites