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Vote Gray Jay as Canada's National Bird

There are movements afoot in Canada to select a National Bird as part of the Canada celebrations for its 150th year of existence in 2017.

 

Currently we have the maple as our official tree and for better or worse, the beaver as our official mammal.  So why not an official bird?

 

Many countries have one, the U.S. with its bald eagle being a prime example.

 

I strongly believe that we should choose the Gray Jay, formerly known as the Canada Jay.

In no order of importance, here are no less than 16 compelling reasons
why it would be a great choice:

 

  1. Found in all thirteen provinces and territories; it is only barely found in the U.S., in the Rocky Mt region and Alaska

  2. A member of the corvid or crow family, arguably the smartest birds on the planet;

  3. Extremely friendly toward humans like all Canadians, easily coming to the hand for handouts;

  4. Very hardy like all Canadians, having highly adapted itself to living in very cold regions;

  5. Figures strongly in First Nations folklore, also called the Whiskey Jack;

  6. Is not an endangered species and thus, not at a serious risk of disappearing; 

  7. Figures prominently in the boreal forest ecological zone, constituting a vast portion of our country worthy of protection and under pressure from clear-cutting and oil and gas development;

  8. Not a hunted species, so it is not shot by Canadians;

  9. Not an official bird species for any of the ten provinces and recognized territories nor any other country (Common Loon is Ontario’s bird; Snowy Owl is Quebec’s bird)

  10. Formerly called the Canada Jay by ornithologists for 200 years; its French name is still  mésangeai du Canada and its Latin name is Perisoreus canadensis!)

  11. Stays in Canada year-round

  12. Not flamboyant in its appearance, best representing the conservative nature of Canadians!

  13. Not regarded as an obnoxious or nuisance species (like the Canada goose which is culled in the U.S.!)

  14. Cannot be confused with any other bird species (99.6% of Canadians cannot tell the difference between a raven and a crow!)

  15. Not a circumpolar species, i.e. not found in other northern countries (as is the Snowy Owl and Common Raven)

  16. Does look like any other Canadian bird species and thus, cannot be misidentified

RECENTLY PRODUCED VIDEO ABOUT THE GRAY JAY

COURTESY: ROBERT BATEMAN

COURTESY: GORD BELYEA

COURTESY: REJEAN TURGEON

COURTESY: MELANIE PEBERNAT

COURTESY: GORD BELYEA

In short, I cannot think of a more Canadian bird!

 

If Canada adopts this species as its national bird, we might even be able to convince the Nomenclature Committee of the American Ornithologists’ Union  to rename it the Canada Jay. Steps are already being taken in this regard.

 

The only thing going against it is that many Canadians do not see this bird in their backyard every day, but lots of states and provinces as well as other countries have official birds that the public does not see on a regular basis and may in fact never see them as a live wild bird.  The fact is that once the Gray Jay is chosen, we can promote the bird so that Canadians make an effort to visit our boreal forests to become very familiar with it and indeed, be proud of it as our National Bird.  

 

Other Comments:

A few years ago, a raptor organization called The Canadian Raptor Conservancy (CRC) in Ontario started promoting a national bird for Canada, but they have been doing it mostly by using an internet vote.  I worry about their process because there are species on their list of candidates which would be a disastrous choice.

 

For instance, the Canada Goose is an obnoxious bird that is much hated in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere to the point of being culled.  The Common Loon is Ontario's bird, not likely to be a popular idea with the other provinces, especially its arch-rival, Quebec.  And the same can be said for the Snowy Owl, which is Quebec’s official bird.  Another leading candidate in the CRC poll, the Red-Tailed Hawk, is even more common in the U.S. than in Canada, so it is not very distinctive.   Fortunately, the Gray Jay is one of the candidates in their poll.

 

Recently, the Canadian Geographic Society initiated a similar online survey, a much more serious effort, for the general public to weigh in on this matter.  Forty candidates have been nominated, including the Gray Jay, but currently the front-runners are the Common Loon, the Snowy Owl, and gasp…. the Canada goose.   Personally, I would like to see some intelligent discussion and debate about such an important matter as opposed to just letting the public make some inane choice.

 

Years ago, I recall running a popular vote to select an official bird for the city of Montreal and we ended up with the American goldfinch only because the children who ended up being allowed to vote thought that it was the prettiest bird.  The Peregrine Falcon, for which the city is famous for in the bird world, would have nade much more sense!  And  recently, the city of Vancouver went with the black-capped chickadee as an official “bird of the year”, another democratic decision that did not make any sense among Canadian ornithologists. 

 

I am seeking help from all quarters to facilitate the selection of the gray jay as Canada’s National Bird.   It is a very prominent bird in our provincial forests and I call upon all British Columbians to support this cause and pass around the word!

 

While the current polls will not ultimately determine our National Bird, they have indeed initiated much intelligent debate and will certainly serve as a sounding board to whichever political party holds the reins in the years to come, especially in terms of organizing events and happenings to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017.

 

Let us hope that establishing the Gray Jay (or Canada Jay!) is one of them!