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There are more than 450 species of birds across Canada, but until now, not one of them has been designated as our national bird. In 2015, the team at Canadian Geographic decided it was time to change that, and founded the National Bird Project with the aim of declaring an official bird for Canada by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
We give you the gray jay. Also known as the whiskey jack or Canada jay, it is Canadian Geographic’s official choice for National Bird of Canada.
The gray jay (Perisoreus canadensis in Latin, Mésangeai du Canada in French) lives in all 13 provinces and territories — the friendly spirit in Canada’s wild northern boreal and mountain forests. It remains in Canada year-round, is neither hunted nor endangered, and from the Atlantic provinces to the West is an indicator of the health of the boreal and mountain forests and climate change, inspiring a conservation philosophy for all kinds of northern land uses. The gray jay has long been important to Indigenous Peoples, and will draw all Canadians to their national and provincial/territorial parks, yet unlike the loon and snowy owl, it is not already a provincial or territorial bird.Read more about why Canadian Geographic chose the gray jay for our newest national symbol.
In January 2015, we asked Canadians to vote for a bird 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. Almost 50,000 people answered that call, voting for their favourite bird and contributing thought-provoking and convincing comments. Voting closed on August 31, 2016, leaving Canada’s top five favourite birds, as decided by popular vote.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society convened a panel of experts in September 2016 to debate which species they believe are most worthy of the honour. For this Can Geo Talks event, Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, provided opening remarks about why birds are important to Canadians. Read about the debate and watch the video.
The Royal Canadian Geographical Society made its official recommendation for Canada’s National Bird at its College of Fellows Annual Dinner on Nov. 16, 2016, and a feature story about the gray jay will appear in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Geographic. Get it on newsstands Nov. 21, or subscribe today.
Browse through all of the birds that were in the running below: