Someone special has a pretty big birthday coming up. Can you guess who?
It's okay to peek, buddy... it's you! Well, alright, it's not you exactly, Mr. Beaver, but Canada itself that is in for a big year.
That's right! The country turns 150 years old next year, and there are all sorts of plans in place to make it a celebration that no one will ever forget. But while we're talking about animals that make us think of Canada, did you know that this country doesn't yet have an official bird? The magazine Canadian Geographic noticed. And they decided that 2017 was the right time to fix that once and for all. So they started the National Bird Project in 2015. This was a year-long mixture of expert feedback and public voting to try and determine what species should have the honour of becoming Canada's national bird. They made their announcement last week, and the result is both perfect and surprising. Is it a loon? A cardinal? A snowy owl? A... Canada goose?!
No, no, no, and no.
Meet the gray jay!
Canadian Geographic picked the gray jay, and their reasons are pretty solid. For starters, the gray jay (also known as the whiskey jack or Canada jay) is found in every single one of the country's 13 provinces and territories. Not only that, it is barely found outside of Canada (only a little in Alaska and some other northwestern American states). It's so Canadian, that its Latin name is Perisoreus canadensis.
The bird is also non-migratory, meaning that they don't leave their northern forest homes, even in the dead of winter. They have been known to incubate (or keep warm) their eggs in the middle of -30°C (-22°F) weather—now that's dedication! It's also a lot hardier behaviour than many of the gray jay's competitors, such as loons and Canada geese, which both migrate south to escape the coldest months in this country.
Not everyone loves the pick
Of course, not everyone is excited just yet about Canadian Geographic's choice. For one, the gray jay came third in the public voting, behind the common loon (first) and the snowy owl. And second, many people were confused by the choice because of one simple fact: they have never seen a gray jay before. And this is understandable. The gray jay lives mainly in northern forests and does not migrate, so it almost never passes through the biggest cities, which are in the south.
Still, Canadian Geographic is sticking behind its pick. For one, the gray jay isn't already a provincial bird (the common loon is Ontario's bird and the snowy owl is the bird of Quebec). These birds are also highly intelligent and experts at storing food to survive our famous winters. Plus, they are a big part of both Indigenous mythology and in folklore as companions of Canada's earliest settlers. Many tales exist of the birds as teachers and messengers of the forest.
Still just a suggestion... but a good one!
Finally, it's important to note that the gray jay isn't our national bird... yet. This is only a recommendation. But we must admit, the more you look at the case for gray jay as Canada's national bird, the more we like it! What do you think?