Meet the gray jay, Canada’s new national bird

Canada's new national bird, gray jay in a tree

Photo: The Forest Vixen/flickr


Canada has more than 450 species of birds, but until recently, not one has had the honor of being the national bird.

With Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, Canadian Geographic decided to undertake a two-year project to designate a feathered representative. The chosen bird is the gray jay.

More than 50,000 people voted on a special National Bird Project website, adding comments about why they thought their suggestions should win votes for avian ambassador. The vote stirred up a spirited discussion on social media, with people chiming in for (and against) individual nominees.

But this wasn’t strictly a popularity contest. A panel of experts met to debate which bird they thought would be most worthy of the honor. Then the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which publishes Canadian Geographic, made its official recommendation.

The aptly named David Bird, a professor emeritus of wildlife biology and an ornithologist at McGill University in Montreal, debated in favor of the gray jay, also known as the whiskey jack or Canada jay. In an interview with the New York Times, he cited many reasons he was a fan. He said gray jays don’t migrate and instead nest in Canada throughout the winter, feeding on food they tuck away during the fall. Gray jays are friendly with people, often landing on their hands or clothing, hoping to get a treat. Mating pairs are also monogamous.

“You’ve got loyal, you’ve got friendly, you’ve got smart, you’ve got hearty,” he told the Times. “That’s what Canadians think we are.”

Although the gray jay flew away with top honors, the bird actually came in third place behind the common loon and the snowy owl. Editors of Canadian Geographic said those birds were taken out of consideration because they were already used to represent the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

two common loons in the waterThe common loon was a top vote-getter but was taken out of the running because it already represented Ontario. (Photo: USFWSmidwest/flickr)
snowy owl in the snowLikewise, the snowy owl was disqualified because it was already a symbol of Quebec.(Photo: Silver Leapers/flickr)

Interestingly, many Canadians haven’t actually seen the elusive gray jay, which tends to stick to the northern deep woods.

“The only thing going against it is that many Canadians do not see this bird every day (unless they enjoy skiing!), 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 bird,” said Bird, when pitching the gray jay’s attributes. “The fact is that once it is chosen, we can promote the bird so that Canadians make an effort to visit our boreal forest to become very familiar with it and indeed, be proud of it as our National Bird.”



Article Source: Mother Nature Network

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