What should Canada’s national bird be?

January 26, 2015 | Jeff Wells

The Common Loon is currently leading Canadian Geographic's poll
Credit: Jeff Wells

It isn’t often that we are granted the opportunity to engage in a political debate that could be labeled as ‘fun’. Although the political ramifications of identifying an official national bird for Canada may not shape foreign policy for generations to come, the time has come for Canada to make its choice.

Canada already has a national tree (maple), a national animal (beaver), a national sport (lacrosse in summer, hockey in winter), and even a national horse (Canadian horse). So why doesn’t Canada have a national bird?

That’s a question Canadian Geographic is currently asking. They’ve spearheaded a project to put identifying a national bird on the nation’s official agenda, and are asking everyday citizens to vote for their pick. You can read more about the project and place your vote here:

It would seem logical to choose a bird that regularly occurs in the boreal forest. Around three-quarters of Canada’s common birds regularly breed or rely on the boreal forest, which spans the entire width of Canada like a massive green belt. It’s also an international supplier of migrants, with billions of birds pouring out of the forest each fall en route to wintering grounds in areas as close as the United States and as far as the southern tip of South America.

In this sense, migratory birds join things like maple syrup and international diplomacy in terms of symbolic Canadian exports.

The Globe and Mail recently weighed in on the debate to highlight the pros and cons of some of the leading candidates. Factors including range, behavior, and physical description were all discussed.

Pertaining to boreal birds, the question at large seems to be whether or not it should be a predominantly migratory bird such as the Common Loon, which would pair well with Canada’s international diplomacy record and is featured on its $1 coin, or a bird that sticks around and toughs out the cold Canadian winters such as the Gray Jay, which would be more emblematic of Canadians’ hardiness and uniquely northern affability. We have also wondered if anyone has considered the well-named Canada Warbler?

Canada Warbler
Credit: Jeff Nadler

There is some minor concern that many people will vote for one of their favorite birds or one with a well-known name rather than one that best captures the Canadian spirit. This isn’t an unfounded concern, particularly given the fact that the majority of Canadians live in the south and some may be less familiar with birds that breed further north in the pristine boreal and arctic regions of Canada.

Regardless of which bird wins, it would be nice to see Canada’s rich avian heritage formally recognized with an official bird of Canada!

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