There are more than 450 species of birds across Canada, but not one of them has been designated as our national bird — a title that for too long hasn’t been made official. In 2015, the team at Canadian Geographic magazine decided it was time to change that.
Welcome to the National Bird Project, the goal of which is to help designate an official bird for Canada by 2017, the country’s sesquicentennial. In the first phase of the project, we asked Canadians to help find a species that could represent this nation of forest, prairie grassland, Arctic and sub-Arctic, maritime and wetland, agricultural and urban areas and many other habitats, and tens of thousands answered that call, voting for their favourite species and contributing thought-provoking and convincing comments, many of which were moving or funny. Canadians, it’s clear, love their birds.
Voting closed on August 31, 2016. Canada’s top five favourite birds, as decided by popular vote, are shown below.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society convened a panel of experts on September 19, 2016, to advocate for the declaration of a National Bird and to debate which species they believe are most worthy of the honour. Read about the debate here or watch the video below.
David Bird, Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Biology, McGill University
Alex MacDonald, Senior Conservation Manager, Nature Canada
Mark S. Graham, Vice-President of Research and Collections for the Canadian Museum of Nature
George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate
Shirley Ida Williams, Professor Emeritus of Indigenous Studies, Trent University, was unable to attend
Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, provided opening remarks about why birds are important to Canadians.
The debate continues on Twitter and Instagram: use the hashtag #canadabird to join the conversation.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society will make its official recommendation for Canada’s National Bird at its College of Fellows Annual Dinner on Nov. 16, 2016, and a feature story about Canada’s national bird will appear in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Geographic. Get it on newsstands Nov. 21, or subscribe today.