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

B.C. government grants $250K to help robotics students

Two high schools in North Surrey among schools benefiting from grant to First Robotics BC

Mother of accused charged in connection to Surrey teen’s murder

Manjit Kaur Deo charged with ‘accessory after the fact’ in 2017 death of Bhavkiran Dhesi

Delta looking to add over 30 dedicated pickleball courts by 2022

The program would see eight outdoor pickleball courts built in North Delta before the end of 2019

UPDATE: No one hurt in fire at Surrey care facility

It happened at the Czorny Alzheimer Centre, in the 16800-block of 66th Avenue

2019 Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair Round-Up

Looking back on the community events, rodeo and country fair that took place over May long weekend

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

On-duty Vancouver police officer facing dangerous driving charges

Few details have been provided about the case

Oil companies, 24-cent gap between B.C., Alberta to be focus of gas price probe

Premier John Horgan called the spike in gas prices ‘alarming’

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

5 to start your day

Corgis put on a show at the Cloverdale Rodeo, family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras remembers him and more

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Man arrested after police standoff and fire at Abbotsford home

Suspect allegedly breached conditions to not be near victim or her home

Most Read