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Time to choose a national bird

Canada doesn't have one yet but plans are underway so get your vote in

Canada does not yet have a national bird — yet. There’s the beaver, the national animal; the maple, the national tree; and the Canadian horse, the national horse. But a national bird? Nothing has been designated.

However, there are plans underway to remedy this, and you can take part in choosing what bird is selected. Canadian Geographic has announced a “National Bird Project” to designate an official bird by 2017, in time for Canada’s 150th birthday.

There are over 450 species of birds across Canada. Some stay here all year, while others are summer visitors, migrating south over the winter. Some live only in one area of the country, while others are more widespread. Canadian Geographic hopes to choose a species that can represent all parts of the country, and all types of habitats — forest, grassland, maritime and wetland, Arctic and sub-Arctic, agricultural and urban.

If you have access to a computer you can vote for your choice. If you are passionate about a particular bird, you can also contribute a short essay on why you believe your choice should win. Canadian Geographic has suggested 40 birds as contenders but you can email to suggest another.

Some countries have chosen powerful birds as their emblems, such as the bald eagle (U.S.) or the Andean condor (Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia). Others selected colourful birds such as the scarlet macaw (Honduras) or the Cuban trogan (Cuba), while others have selected smaller, less conspicuous birds such as the clay-coloured thrush (Costa Rica) or the barn swallow (Austria).

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photo: Donna Gamache

Check out the contenders suggested by Canadian Geographic. If you want a large, powerful bird, what about the great-horned owl or the sandhill crane? A colourful choice might be the blue jay, American goldfinch, pine grosbeak or evening grosbeak.

As of June, nearly 25,000 votes were in and the leading contenders were: common loon, snowy owl, grey jay (also called Canada jay or whiskey jack), Canada goose, and black-capped chickadee.

The loon is seen as representing Canada’s wilderness, while the snowy owl is seen to represent the northern climate and a sparsely populated wilderness. The Canada goose is popular because of its name, the fact that it is both black and white (multicultural), partly grey (representing our aging population) and flies south in groups in winter. The grey jay has been voted for because it lives in every province and territory, doesn’t leave during winter, breeds in the dead of winter, and is very friendly towards people. The black-capped chickadee is viewed as a friendly, well-known bird, easily recognizable and widespread across the country.

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Some feel that the choice should not be a bird that is already a provincial bird, such as the loon (Ontario) or snowy owl (Quebec) or the black-capped chickadee (New Brunswick). If you agree, check out this list of provincial birds so you’ll know which ones to exclude.

Each person/email address gets only one vote, so choose carefully before you submit. For more information and to vote visit the Canadian Geographic website.

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