Citizens from across Canada made their opinions heard in an election last week and, though not political in nature, it certainly caused an uproar from concerned citizens. Canadians all over the country are crowing that they don’t care for the final choice for national bird: the grey jay.
Canadian Geographic proposed The National Bird Project nearly two years ago so that one species may be chosen to celebrate Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary. They gave Canadians five options for a national bird: the Canada goose, the snowy owl, the chickadee, the loon and the grey jay. Next, Canadian professors defended each bird in a formal debate at the Canadian Museum of Nature on Sept. 19. The public joined in on Twitter using #CanadaBird.
The project concluded last week with the results of a nationwide vote — results that were promptly ignored. According to the poll, the loon was the winner by a wide berth, but Canadian Geographic chose their own winner: the grey jay.
While some Canadians were angered that their votes counted for nothing, many ornithologists are pleased with the choice. Dr. David Bird (no, really), professor of ornithology at McGill, expressed his pleasure with the unconventional choice.
“It makes sense to nominate a friendly and recognizable bird with such a strong tie to the boreal, and especially one that reflects the hardiness of the Canadian spirit by sticking around and toughing out the cold winters,” Bird said.
While Canadian Geographic reminded upset voters that the results were unofficial and a bill still needs to be set before Parliament to start the process of choosing a national bird, many citizens are still indignant over the choice of the uniconic grey jay.
The gray jay itself is well-known all over Canada as a friendly, clever bird that prefers to hide away in forests, away from human eyes. The gray jay is smart enough to learn to feed from human hands and they have been long regarded in the Native community as forest guides. They are sometimes referred to as the Whiskeyjack or Canada jay.
Bird noted that, among the other five finalists, the loon is already Ontario’s provincial bird, the snowy owl is Quebec’s bird, and the black-capped chickadee is New Brunswick’s. He also added that choosing the infamous Canada goose “would be a terrible mistake, of course.”
“My feeling is that when we chose the flag of Canada, we did not elevate the provincial flag from Ontario or from Quebec or from New Brunswick,” Bird said. “We chose something fresh and new. And that’s what I think we need to do with a national bird.”
Again, since the vote was unofficial, it does not technically matter which bird won and which bird was simply preferred and picked by officials.