The Canada Jay is not shy and will land right on your camera even without the temptation of food. (Gord Belyea)

Canada jay gets its fitting name back

Canadian birders are rejoicing that the Canada jay has finally had its name restored because they say the bird epitomizes the Canadian identity and it could help their campaign to have it named Canada’s national bird.

David Bird says the Canada Jay is typically Canadian: ‘You’ve got smart, you’ve got friendly and you’ve got hardy. That’s Canadian!’ (Marcel Gabhauer)

Among the smartest of birds

“(The name) perfectly typifies the Canadian personality,” says David Bird, emeritus professor of wildlife biology at McGill University. “It’s an extremely friendly bird. It’ll land on your head, your camera lens, on your hand without even being prompted by food. So, they’re very trusting.

“They’re extremely hardy. They don’t migrate in the winter time like most birds do, like the common loon. They stay year-round and they actually breed at temperatures sometimes at -30 degrees (Celsius).

“And thirdly, they’re a member of the corvid family. That’s the crows, the magpies, the jays and the ravens which makes them basically part of the smartest birds on the planet.

Two Canada jays.

‘Hmm…. looks cute.’ Yes, they might mate even in the freezing cold. (Dan Strickland)

They even gave it an American spelling!

The Canada jay had been called just that beginning in the early 1800s.  The bird’s name was changed erroneously in 1957 to gray jay, and adding insult to injury, using the U.S. spelling of ‘gray’ as opposed to the Canadian ‘grey.’ This was discovered  through dogged research by ornithologist Dan Strickland.

After vigorous lobbying, the North American Classification Committee of the American Ornithological Society was convinced to change the name back to Canada jay and will publish the decision in July 2018.

The birds, yes, but ornithologists don’t yet have the government eating out of their hands. (Dan Strickland)

A good way to celebrate the Year of the Bird, suggest birders

David Bird and others have been lobbying the Canadian government to name a national bird and that it be the Canada jay. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society went ahead and had its own contest to have people pick a national bird and the Canada jay eventually won. But the Canadian government has, so far, said it has no plans to adopt new national symbols.

But Bird is not deterred. He says it would be a perfect time for the government to state an intention to name the Canada jay the national bird because 2018 has been declared the Year of the Bird and Canada will host the International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver from August 19 to 26.

David Bird will continue to lobby the Canadian government to make the Canada jay the national bird. (Jack Barclay)

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