Gray Jay
Credit: Greg Schechter (gregthebusker on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Common LoonSeabamirum 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.

Just got the "loonie" half of my "loonies and twoonies" 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?

Left: Snowy Owl | Right: "Liberty" a Southern Bald Eagle
Credit: Left photo: Tony Hisgett (hisgett on flickr) | Right photo: Joel Olives (jolives on flickr) / Both are Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

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.

Chickadee: A black-capped chickadee looks out from a bushRodney 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:

  1. Common Loon has 7885 votes
  2. Snowy Owl has 6004 votes
  3. Gray Jay (aka Whiskey Jack) has 5498 votes and is shown as my intro photo
  4. Canada Goose has 2374 votes (and is shown in video further along)
  5. Black-Capped Chickadee (shown at right) has 2067 votes

The total votes (as of May 9th, 2015) is 30,418 and there are about 40 birds currently listed on the voting panel. You can suggest a bird for inclusion, as well.

Gray Jay (Canada Jay) May Be the Smartest Bird in the World

Gray Jay, Perisoreus canadensis on top of Sulphur mountain Banff.
Credit: Marilyn Peddle (marilynjane on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

In Third Place is the Gray Jay (aka Whiskey Jack)

Mt. Washington, B.C. Whiskey Jack (Gray Jay)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.

After reading what Dr. David Bird had to say about the gray jay in Neale McDevitt's article titled Who will rule the roost? Canadians asked to vote for national bird, I was sold.

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, Perisoreus canadensis
Credit: A. Delray - The Forest Vixen - / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Gray Jay Feeding From My Hand

Published on September 30th, 2012 by bensonlar

And Sometimes We Bring Our Babies Along to Feed Them

Gray Jay and Company
Credit: summitcheese on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

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.

As for the black-capped chickadee, well, it's the provincial bird of New Brunswick. It already has the proud distinction as the official bird of Vancouver, an honour bestowed on it this year (2015).

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

Great horned owl: provincial bird of Alberta, found all over the US and parts of South America

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.

Cedar waxwing: Ah, they get drunk too easily (eating those fermented mountain ash berries). We already had enough of this in Canada. Plus, they aren't found in Canada's territories.

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.

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