The Gray Jay

Smart, tough, friendly: Geographic society bids gray jay as national bird

Following a two-year search, Canada's national bird has been chosen.

A two-year-long, Canada-wide search has resulted in the gray jay – also known as the whiskey jack – being chosen as Canada’s national bird by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society.

The robin-sized gray jay, which is found in every province and territory but only in Canada, is being lauded by the society as a reflection of Canadians’ best qualities: smart, tough and friendly.

The whiskey jack’s common name doesn’t come from booze, but from the original Cree and Algonquin languages in which it was celebrated as a friendly and clever herald of good fortune.

The gray jay beat out higher profile contenders including the common loon, snowy owl and black-capped chickadee in a contest that garnered national attention and attracted almost 50,000 online voters.

The gray jay actually came third in voting behind the loon and the snowy owl, but was chosen following a public debate and deliberations by a panel of experts.

The federal government has not committed to naming a national bird – let alone the gray jay – but the Canadian Geographic Society argues that Canada’s 150th anniversary in the coming year offers a perfect opportunity.

The society announced its preferred candidate Wednesday evening at its annual dinner at the National War Museum in Ottawa.

David Bird, a professor emeritus from Montreal’s McGill University and one of the country’s foremost ornithologists, called the gray jay “the perfect bird for Canada.”

“They’re the smartest birds on the planet. That’s actually been shown scientifically,” Bird said in an interview.

The jays never migrate out of Canada, wintering in the boreal forest where they nest. They’ve been observed sitting on eggs in temperatures as low as minus 30 C.

“These birds will also come down to your hand, without being prodded or trained in any way, because they’re very friendly,” said the ornithologist, who now lives on Vancouver Island.

“So now you’ve got friendly, hardy and intelligent – that, to me, epitomizes the average Canadian.”

Gray jays are found in the boreal forest in every province and territory, coast to coast, and are only rarely observed anywhere south of Canada’s border.

In addition to their Cree name, wisakedjak, they were known as Canada jays for the better part of two centuries until 1957, when the American Ornithologists’ Union renamed the cousin of crows and ravens as gray jays.

 

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Crown appeals stay against Jamie Bacon in Surrey Six killings

B.C.’s prosecution service says judge’s decision reveals ‘errors of law’

Surrey athlete sought to enjoy ‘life to the fullest to see what the world has in store for me’

Basketball player Raphael Alcoreza, who died last week, wanted to become a firefighter

Surrey RCMP search for man who allegedly robbed Cloverdale store at knifepoint

Surrey RCMP release photos taken from surveillance video in November robbery.

PHOTOS: Rogers Hometown Hockey in Surrey highlights local success stories

From the HNIC Punjabi team to cancer survivor Owen Hopkins, stories of strength were on display

Power returns to most of 3,622 in South Surrey, White Rock

Power outage spread across Ocean Park and beyond

VIDEO: Deltassist launches annual toy depot

On Monday, Dec. 11, volunteers organized East Delta Hall for the three day toy depot

Liberal Hogg wins South Surrey-White Rock byelection over Conservative Findlay

B.C. riding to be represented by non-conservative for first time in decades

Six-year-old boy needs $19,000 a month to treat rare form of arthritis

Mother of sick Sooke boy asks government to help fund treatments

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

Be ladder safe both at work and home

WorkSafeBC wants you to keep safe while hanging those Christmas lights this year

Cold weather shelter too full, buses homeless to other communities

The Gateway of Hope shelter has had send some people to other shelters as they ran out of room.

B.C. overdose deaths surpass 1,200

96 people died of illicit drug overdoses in October

Feds agree to give provinces 75 per cent of pot tax revenues

Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the agreement today

Tourism Delta seeks North Deltan for board of directors

Candidates must have “ability to represent the needs of the community and understand the challenges”

Most Read