Seabamirum on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericWhen I read a story in The Guardian by Karl Mathiesen this week that voters had "until midnight" on May 7th, 2015 to vote for Britain's national bird, I wondered about Canada's national bird.
I thought Canada already had a national bird - the common loon. But no, the common loon is the official bird of Ontario (where I live).
The Canadian dollar has the loon on it and is aptly called the "loonie." I think the $5.00 bill also has it. Yes, it does.
I guess because the common loon is, well, so common, I just assumed it was our national bird.
Aaron Strout on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericScratching my head, I looked it up and found The Globe and Mail article Race is on to pick the national bird of Canada by Gloria Galloway.
Well gee, if the "race is on" how much time do we have?
It turns out that The Royal Canadian Geographical Society launched this campaign earlier this year which was made public in the January 2015 edition of Canadian Geographic. The hope is to "lobby the government to declare the winner the national bird in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary [in 2017]."
We have plenty of time. The website where you can vote and track the results thus far is Canadian Geographic’s National Bird Project.
Being extremely curious, I thought I'd take a peek at the top contenders, find out what David Bird [yeah, the last name is for real], McGill Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology said in a recent article, and offer my thoughts.
Snowy Owl Looks Almost as Tough as the Bald Eagle, Right?
Bald Eagle Represents the United States of America
From the Colbert Report to the president's official seal, the bald eagle is synonymous with all that represents American culture. In fact, the bald eagle has been an official emblem of the United States since 1787.
So initially, I thought the Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus) would be perfect. I mean, next to the bald eagle, the Snowy owl looks almost as powerful (like us). But then I found out that the Snowy owl is Québec's official bird. Plus, Harry Potter already gave the Snowy owl (remember Hedwig) some notoriety.
Rodney Campbell (acrylicartist on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericHmm, that covers the top two picks so far.
According to the leaderboard, as of May 9th, 2015, the top five birds (by votes) are as follows:
- Common Loon has 7885 votes
- Snowy Owl has 6004 votes
- Gray Jay (aka Whiskey Jack) has 5498 votes and is shown as my intro photo
- Canada Goose has 2374 votes (and is shown in video further along)
- Black-Capped Chickadee (shown at right) has 2067 votes
Gray Jay (Canada Jay) May Be the Smartest Bird in the World
In Third Place is the Gray Jay (aka Whiskey Jack)
Rick McCharles on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericIn third place is the gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis), also known as grey jay, Canada jay or whiskey jack.
And what could be cooler sounding than the whiskey jack?
But since Canada is family-friendly, I thought the gray jay should be going by the name "Canada jay" which is still sometimes used - especially if the gray jay becomes Canada's national bird.
The gray jay (Canada jay or whiskey jack) has the following Canadian traits:
The gray jay is found everywhere in Canada, in all ten provinces and three territories.
Other birds, like the common loon and Snowy owl, are found elsewhere or migrate, but the gray jay pretty much stays in Canada (even throughout our harsh winters). What could be more Canadian than that?
Dr. Bird was quoted saying:
"The gray jay is hearty and resourceful – just like we are. It has adapted to living in very cold, snowy regions by putting together seeds and insects with sticky spit and storing them in trees above the snowline."
He added, "[As] a member of the corvid family, the gray jay may be the smartest bird on the planet." Yes, that's us, I thought.
But what cinched it for me was how friendly the gray jay (Canada jay) is. Dr. Bird mentioned:
"It is one of the few birds in the wild that will feed right out of your hand – even bringing its babies along to eat."
Up next, enjoy some video snippets and photos of the gray jay (Canada jay) also called whiskey jack.
Whiskey Jack (Grey Jay) Eating From a Guy's Hand
Uploaded on January 17th, 2010 by rockey99
Gray Jay Feeding From My Hand
Published on September 30th, 2012 by bensonlar
And Sometimes We Bring Our Babies Along to Feed Them
The Canada Goose and the Black-Capped Chickadee
And My Thoughts About Other Contenders
No, we cannot have the Canada goose represent us. They crap everywhere they go. Plus they ARE aggressive. Clearly not Canadian traits. See video that follows.
And sure, there are other birds I thought of too. Here's a short list with my comments:
Blue jay: too agressive, noisy, and already PEI's (Prince Edward Island's) official bird
Northern cardinal: Love the red, thought it would help represent Canada but (like many birds) the cardinal is also found throughout eastern US and to Mexico. In fact, in Canada it's rarely seen on the prairies or west coast.
Red-winged blackbirds: the ones in Canada migrate and spend their winters in the southern US and Central America.
Mallard duck: At first, I felt they should be included, but then I found out the males "pursue females other than their mates" (and sometimes, forcibly). We can't have jerks like that represent Canadians.
22 Minutes: Canada Goose Attack Ad
Published on February 3rd, 2015 by CBC Punchline
Which Bird Do You Think Best Represents Canada?
I'd love to hear which bird you think should become Canada's national bird. I look forward to reading your comments. As for me, my vote is for the Canada jay (aka gray jay or whiskey jack). But I'm sure you figured that out already.