It’s not the front-runner, but the gray jay it many ornithologists’ favourite pick for national bird.
Photo Credit: Chuck Kling

Canadians voting for a national bird

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Canadians are being asked to vote online for the bird they think would best represent the country. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society has launched the project and hopes to lobby the government to declare the winner the national bird in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The call to Canadians was made in the January issue of the Canadian Geographic magazine and managing editor, Nick Walker says the response has been “overwhelming” with thousands of people voting. In the lead so far is the loon.

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The sound of the loon transports them to the Canadian wilderness, say poll respondents. © Parks Canada

Loon leading

“Canadians…hear the loon and they are transported to the Canadian wilderness…to lakes where they grew up, where they cottage now, camping, hiking. It really draws people in. It’s a haunting call. That’s a comment we keep getting on our website,” says Walker. The loon is already the provincial bird for Ontario, but that does not seem to deter visitors to the website.

The snowy owl is the next most popular bird. “The snowy owl is a beautiful, powerful bird,” he says. “Many people associate it with the north and they like to define Canada as a strong, northern polar nation. So this bird, in its silence and its perceived wisdom…really seems to speak to people.”

Listen‘Several shades of gray’ contender

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Second in the running for national bird is the snowy owl, a beautiful, powerful creature often associated with the north. © CBC

But ornithologists and bird biologists like McGill Professor Emeritus David Bird favour a little bird called the gray jay, also called the whiskey jack. “It’s a very intelligent bird related to ravens, crows and blue jays,” says Walker. “It lives across Canada, it never leaves. It breeds in the dead of winter and it’s friendly to the point where it will approach people hiking, skiing or camping and it’ll share their food and stay with them. So it leaves a lasting impression on people.”

Laughing, Walker notes the gray jay is several shades of gray, “some would argue drab but we think it’s just understated and typically Canadian.”

Canada goose has a good name, but messes too much

The Canadian goose is another contender, but it has a nasty temper and is well-known for fouling parks and golf courses. So annoying is the bird that flocks are often culled in the United States.

Future issues of the magazine will contain more discussion about which bird best represents Canada and Walker says that is helping Canadians learn more about birds and their habitat.

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18 comments on “Canadians voting for a national bird
  1. R. Laury says:

    Trumpeter swans are my choice. They are magnificent and stately birds and awesome to see and hear when flying overhead. Their muted, trumpet-like calls are truly unique. They overwinter in the Fraser Valley of B.C. Curiously nobody else has mentioned them.

  2. Heinz Fenske says:

    Vote for the Dodo bird in Honor of Nice Hair Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

  3. Paula Simmons says:

    I want to vote for the black capped chickadee

  4. robert hayward says:

    should the “national bird” only be
    considered if it appears in all provinces and territories.

    A provincial bird should be considered and could be elevated to a national bird status.

    the cheerful sound of the meadowlark,the early arrival of the robin,the great colours of the blue jay,the hunting prowess of the great horned owl,the tenacious nature and lovely colours of many humming birds(ruby throat). Too Many choices

  5. Elisabeth Rowsell says:

    I pick the Snowy Owl: 1. it doesn’t abandon us in the winter. 2. it blends in the back ground and only strikes when necessary,just as our peace keepers. 3. it stands proud, strong and free.

    Elisabeth

  6. Paula Zoubek says:

    I would like to vote for the chickadee. Friendly, will eat out of your hand. Cheerful and ubiquitous in Canada.

  7. Benoit Blais says:

    I vote for the snowy howl

  8. angela colles says:

    I vote for the loon.
    The loon is on our money so everyone thinks that it is our national bird. I think that the loon tells about Canada from coast to coast.

  9. Richard Mason says:

    Canada Goose … ” mess with us,and we’ll shit on you “

  10. Richard Mason says:

    Loon … stately, peaceful, relaxed, wise, iconic call, symbol of Canadian character.

  11. jim campbell says:

    Blue Heron for national bird

  12. Wendy maurice says:

    I vote for the Snowy owl.
    A beautiful raptor that loves the cold and inhabits the northern regions in warmer weather, but comes south in the winter. But please use a pure white mature male as the image.
    This bird is also known as the oopik or Ookpik by our native population. When I first came to Canada 50 years ago, that’s what was suggested I take home as a souvenir, an Ookpik. It was already seen as representative of Canada the year we got our flag! 1965.
    Some favour the loon, which is a hauntingly beautiful and well known bird, but it is already the Ontario bird AND is already on our one dollar coins.

  13. P Greening says:

    The snowy owl is definitely a northern bird. Canada is the north. Intelligent and extremely beautiful.
    Also I think the Raven should be considered. Highly intelligent, beautiful. Maybe not the prettiest sounding. Another plus is many of our native tribes have a great respect for this bird. Numerous stories relating to it.

  14. Peter Ashcroft says:

    The Loon was the bird that came to mind when I saw this article, but I do no know the other ones except for the Canadian Goose.

  15. C. Leighton says:

    I think that whichever bird is chosen, it should be found ‘only in Canada, you say’.

  16. Edward Schweikert says:

    Canadian Geese or Snow Dove?

  17. marlene maceachern says:

    Some websites are saying we already have a national bird— the loon—-so why are we voting for one if we already have one?

    • David F. says:

      Those websites are wrong. Perhaps they also think that the moose is a national animal, since it appears on our coins?

      The loon is Ontario’s provincial bird, but there is no official national bird. Seems to me we should choose a bird that isn’t already a provincial or territorial bird.