Sam Friedman firstname.lastname@example.org
FAIRBANKS — In Alaska, the gray jay is just a fluffy songbird often seen scavenging around campsites, but over in Canada it’s the source of a national controversy.
No, despite many reports to the contrary, the gray jay hasn’t been named Canada’s national bird, at least not by the government.
But in November, the gray jay became a high-profile but controversial nominee after the Royal Canadian Geographic Society completed a two-year contest in November to nominate a national bird. “Meet our national bird: the gray jay,” proclaimed its magazine, Canadian Geographic, in November.
Canada celebrates its sesquicentennial this year. The nation has existed for 150 years without an official national bird. A magazine poll online attracted about 50,000 votes and finished with the gray jay in third place behind the common loon, featured on Canada’s $1 coin, and the snowy owl.
But Canadian Geographic’s editors elevated the gray jay to be their nominee for the national bird because it met criteria for national symbol status beyond popularity. The bird isn’t already a provincial symbol like the owl and the loon. It’s also a year-round resident of the northern woods. It doesn’t migrate south for the winter like many other birds. Gray jays have dense feathers for withstanding extreme cold. They use their saliva like glue to stash food on tree branches.