TL;DR version: The poll is right down there at the bottom
The whisky jack — the artist also known as the grey jay and also also known as the Canada jay — has curried favor with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society as the right candidate to assume the lofty position of Canada’s national bird next year.
Great White Northers were recently polled, a knuckle-whitening formal debate was held, and there was a whole lot of shrieking on Twitter regarding the five hopeful winged beasties. The result: “We are honoured to recommend the grey jay as a fresh symbol of our collective passion for natural environments, and our concern for their conservation and stewardship,” says Canadian Geographic editor Aaron Kylie in a media release.
Now, the society will
strongarm lobby the federal government to make it official: they want the whisky jack adopted as Canada’s national bird via an Act Of Parliament in 2017 to mark Canada’s 150th birthday.
“The project ignited a groundswell of public support because those taking part recognized they were joining a movement to identify a new national symbol of pride, identity and belonging on the cusp of the country’s 150th birthday,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says.
Canadian Geographic boffins say the whisky jack, which resides in every province and territory, possesses “traits that symbolize the Canadian spirit,” including its friendliness and intelligence. “They are a tough bird. The grey jay thrives in winter, nesting in the harshest, darkest month of the year and has been recorded incubating eggs in snowstorms at temps as cold as –30 C,” the magazine says. “It has been known for centuries as a companion to Indigenous Peoples, early explorers and outdoor enthusiasts.”
Five fabulous feathered friend finalists were chosen. The whisky jack emerged victorious over the black-capped chickadee, the Canada goose (“it’s so Canadian, it has Canada in its name”), the snowy owl and the common loon.
This little beauty is seen as a symbol of unity. At the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s official National Bird Debate in September, Canada’s poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke, spoke with passion in favor of the chickadee, “a bird that exists throughout the country,” in both rural and urban areas.
Our little chickadee would tell the world that we embrace diversity and overcome our differences, says Clarke. “This is the bird for Canadian unity. This is the bird that breaks down all barriers, provincial and regional and for that matter, international.”
Mark Graham, vice president of research and collections for the Canadian Museum Of Nature, says this one is a natural.
Says Graham, “It bears our name. It is a northern bird; we are a northern country. Geese are smart and strong, qualities we like to assign to Canadians.” Oh, and there’s another thing it has in common with us: “Like Canadians, some adapt well to winter and stick around, and others fly south when it gets cold.”
According to Alex MacDonald, senior conservation manager at Nature Canada, you couldn’t hope to find a bird which represents the True North Strong And Free better than this bad boy/girl.
“The snowy owl is uniquely adapted to life in the unforgiving Canadian winter and the brief Arctic summer,” he said — and it’s a symbol of female empowerment. “It’s 2016, folks. The snowy owl is a great example of Canadian girl power. The females are not only physically stronger but also socially dominant over the males. My Canada includes equal opportunities for women and female snowy owls and yours should too.”
The one dollar bird got the most support in the voting which pared down the finalists, and Bird Studies Canada president Steven Price says that alone should propel it to its perch as the bird of the people.
Or, to put it poetically: “The popular choice, loons lead the bird race/ They flap and they swim and they dive to first place/ 37 per cent, the people spoke clearly/ In Canada that gets you a federal majority.”
For which bird did you vote/would you have voted?