Canada's National Bird

Why the Gray Jay as Canada's National Bird?

It's about time Canada!

And hopefully Canada's parliamentarians will accept the Gray Jay as Canada's National Bird when Canadian Geographic puts it forward to be named the national bird in 2017 as it will be Canada's 150th Anniversary.

How did I Vote & Why?

I voted for the Common Loon, because it is found in every province and territory of Canada. It is a Canadian icon already.

Its image is on the one dollar coin, named appropriately the "loonie"

Most important for me, It is part of my loved experience as a canoeist, hearing the call of the Loon carried over the lakes on a misty morning.

Memories of seeing this stately and attractive water bird which has been such a cherished part of my life, I could not ignore.

Then, I listened to David M. Bird, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Wildlife Biology from McGill University speaking about the merits of the Gray Jay and why it would make the perfect Canadian National Bird.

I was persuaded and convinced, this was the best and only choice for Canada's National Bird!

It was too late at that point to change my vote but I am delighted with the winner and a big supporter.

Some people were upset that some of the other more popular birds from the five finalists, Common Loon, Canada Goose, Snowy Owl and Black-capped Chickadee were not chosen. Some people think they are better known and already represent Canada in some way.

But all of these birds are already a provincial bird or represented on coins and in other such ways. 

And I agree they are better known, but that is not necessarily a good reason for any of them to be named as Canada's National Bird.

Why Change Its Name & to What?

There is a quest by some people to have the name of the Gray Jay changed now that Canadians have chosen it to be their National bird.

(Learn about this interesting bird here.)

"Grey Jay" or "Gray Jay"?

Some would like to see it spelled "Grey Jay" after the British spelling of the colour grey. "Gray Jay" as it is spelt now with an "a" is an American spelling.

In 1957, the American Ornithologists’ Union decided that, the species should be called “gray jay”, at least for scientific literature and field guides. (The AOU based this spelling on a nomenclatural system, which they no longer strictly or solely adhere to, but have other criterion that is considered as well.)

For me, I like the look of the spelling as "Gray Jay". 

My Grandparents on my Mom's side were from England, but my love of Florida and my family's 30 year history of traveling to this state as a location for winter interlude is very strong too.

Canada has stronger ties as a nation financially, and culturally, with the US than with Britain.

And a very significant factor that I think most Canadians forget is we would not enjoy our life style and national security we do, if we did not live next door to this particular large neighbour.

For me, I am happy with "Gray Jay". :)

"Whisky Jack" or "Whiskey Jack"?

Others think it would be more suited to Canadian style being called the "Whisky Jack", implying that whiskey is the alcoholic beverage of choice in Canada.  

Although in my experience beer not whiskey is more the drink being ordered in Canadian Pubs, but many wine drinkers would have their objections too! 

But which spelling would be chosen? Whisky is a Canadian spelling and Whiskey is American.

The website quotes David Broom, author of The World Atlas of Whisky

He says in his book, history has it that Whisky without the "e" is the Scottish spelling originating from Gaelic for "water of life". It is spelled this way most popularly around the world including Japan, Scotland and Canada.

Ireland and the United States use the spelling "Whiskey".

There we go again. ;)


In my opinion I could be persuaded to change the name to some spelling that would be closer to "Wisakedjak". 

This is an aboriginal name given by the Cree for their mythological figure "wihsakecahkw", who was known for being benign, fun-loving and cheerful.

The natives saw the Gray Jay as possessing these same character qualities.

This is actually how calling this Jay "Whiskey Jack" came about. It originally had nothing to do with the alcoholic beverage.

"Wisakedjak" or "wihsakecahkw" over time became "Whiskey Jack".

If you have ever sat with a group of people and passed a whispered story around the circle you will have experienced how the last person telling it will have a completely different tale to tell than the first person who told it!

This is the most likely concept of how the name was bastardized over time.

Or perhaps the lumberjacks just had this drink on their minds and "Whiskey Jack" was easier for them to pronounce.

"Canada Jay"?

Then there are those who would like to see the Gray Jay's name changed to "Canada Jay". But, in my opinion I feel no bird should be named after a country. Sorry. But that's how I feel.

Wildlife is not bound by borders and when enjoying and studying wildlife, country borders have no place in my opinion.

See information on Migration Flyways.

I know I am not alone in thinking this way either. Perhaps not in naming birds but when it comes to studying.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada know this too. They colaborate on a few projects, recognizing that birdlife cannot be fully studied within the confines of human defined borders.

This is just my take on this great project that the Canadian Geographic took on. Let's be thankful that somebody took it upon themselves to get this done!

Learn all about this wonderful, intriguing wild bird, The Gray Jay.

Thanks Canadian Geographic!

Learn About Other Types of Birds

  • Life In A Goldfinch Nest This is a story in video of an adventure into the beginning of life for four Goldfinch youths.
  • Full Fledge: Goldfinches Full fledge day is the next video along the path of the journey for the young Goldfinch chicks.
  • Gray Jay Meet this energetic, gregarious Jay that will quickly become one of your favourite birds. You may even be spurred on to visit an area where you can share lunch with this fun bird.
  • Hummingbirds Learn about the Western Hemispheres most interesting bird and the worlds smallest bird. Intriguing is only the beginning.
  • Great Blue Heron One of the biggest and best fishermen of the bird world. A beautiful bird, a denizen of the shore.

> > Canada's National Bird - My Take

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