The Royal Canadian Geographical Society through its flagship publication, Canadian Geographic, recently completed a project to name Canada’s National Bird. In debates and voting that took place since January 2015, five finalists were identified after more than 50,000 people voted. The finalists were the common loon (with 13,995 votes, among which one was mine), snowy owl, (8,948) gray jay (or Whiskey Jack, 7,918), Canada goose (3,616), and the black-capped chickadee (3,324).
After a series of further debates and consultations, the gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis) was selected as Canada’s National bird largely owing to the fact that it is found in every province and territory where it is a year-round resident, is not an existing provincial or territorial bird, and it is widespread in boreal and mountain forests of Canada which themselves cover about two-thirds of Canada’s land mass. The gray jay also has importance to Indigenous Peoples of Canada; in fact, the alternative common name of “whiskey jack” is an anglicized version of the Cree Wisakedjak, or variations thereof, within the Algonquian language group.
More information on the competition and the biology of the gray jay (note that the use of the American spelling of “gray” rather then the English “grey” is dictated by the governing body for bird names, the American Ornithologists’ Union) can be found HERE. Notwithstanding the “victory” by the gray jay in this competition, all 450 species of birds in Canada are valued parts of Canada’s biodiversity (and won’t dislodge the common loon as number one in my heart!).