The whisky jack may soon become Canada's national bird
Grey jay beat out common loon, black-capped chickadee, snowy owl and Canada goose in National Bird Project
The whisky jack — also known as the grey jay or the Canada jay — is poised to become our national bird.
After a countrywide vote, a cutthroat formal debate and an awful lot of squawking on Twitter, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society has unveiled the friendly feathered creature as its pick for Canada's national bird, ending its two-year National Bird Project.
"We are honoured to recommend the grey jay as a fresh symbol of our collective passion for natural environments, and our concern for their conservation and stewardship," Aaron Kylie, Canadian Geographic editor, said in press release.
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The society will now lobby the federal government to officially adopt the whisky jack as Canada's national bird in an Act of Parliament in 2017 to mark Canada's 150th birthday.
"The project ignited a groundswell of public support because those taking part recognized they were joining a movement to identify a new national symbol of pride, identity and belonging on the cusp of the country's 150th birthday," Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said.
According to Canadian Geographic, the whisky jack, which can be found in every province and territory, boasts "traits that symbolize the Canadian spirit," including its friendliness and intelligence.
"They are a tough bird. The grey jay thrives in winter, nesting in the harshest, darkest month of the year and has been recorded incubating eggs in snowstorms at temps as cold as –30 C," the magazine said. "It has been known for centuries as a companion to Indigenous Peoples, early explorers and outdoor enthusiasts."
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The whisky jack beat out some pretty tough competition for the top spot, having been chosen from five feathered finalists selected in a national vote.
Here's a look at the runners-up.
Black-capped chickadee: a symbol of unity
At the Royal Canadian Geographical Society's official National Bird Debate in September, Canada's poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke, made an impassioned plea for the chickadee, "a bird that exists throughout the country," in both rural and urban areas.
The chickadee would signal to the world that we embrace our diversity and overcome our differences, he said.
"This is the bird for Canadian unity," Clarke said. "This is the bird that breaks down all barriers, provincial and regional and for that matter, international."
Canada goose: our northern namesake
Why the Canada goose? It's in the name, argued Mark Graham, vice-president of research and collections for the Canadian Museum of Nature.
"It bears our name. It is a northern bird; we are a northern country," Graham said. "Geese are smart and strong, qualities we like to assign to Canadians."
And that's not all the goose has in common with us as.
"Like Canadians, some adapt well to winter and stick around, and others fly south when it gets cold," Graham said.
Snowy owl: a fierce huntress
Alex MacDonald, senior conservation manager at Nature Canada, argued that no other bird better represents "the True North strong and free."
"The snowy owl is uniquely adapted to life in the unforgiving Canadian winter and the brief Arctic summer," he said.
What's more, he said, the majestic beast is a symbol of female empowerment.
"It's 2016, folks. The snowy owl is a great example of Canadian girl power. The females are not only physically stronger but also socially dominant over the males. My Canada includes equal opportunities for women and female snowy owls and yours should too."
Common loon: the people's bird
In the vote that narrowed down the five finalists, the common loon earned the most support. That alone should qualify it as the bird of the people, said Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada.
He defended the creature that adorns our coins with a poem:
"The popular choice, loons lead the bird race/ They flap and they swim and they dive to first place/ 37 per cent, the people spoke clearly/ In Canada that gets you a federal majority."