Gray jay renamed Canada jay in hopes of making it the official national bird

Gray jay Photo by Simon Pierre Barrette, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In 2015, as part of the run-up to the Canada 150 celebration, The Royal Canadian Geographic society nominated the gray jay to be Canada’s national bird. The nation already has a national tree, multiple national animals, and a national tartan, but no official fowl.

While the jay was not adopted in time for the sesquicentennial, that doesn’t mean the campaign has ended. Wildlife biologist David Bird — yes, that’s his real name — is hoping that the recent change of the bird’s name from the gray jay to the Canada jay will put it back in the running.

“This is just a big boost for us and we’re really hoping that the government will do something this year,” he told the CBC.

The jay was previously known as the Canada jay, but for the last 60 years has gone by gray. The American Ornithological Society will announce the move back to the bird’s original name in July. Bird hopes that this name change will increase the jay’s likelihood of officially becoming a national symbol.

While other Canadians might think of the loon or Canada goose as the nation’s most notable fowl, Bird disagrees. He and other jay enthusiasts have been pushing for the gray jay for a long time, sighting its friendly and smart disposition, as well as the fact that it predominately stays north of the border, as evidence that it is the best bird to represent Canada.

“It’s so friendly, it’s intelligent, it’s hearty. And that, to me, epitomizes the Canadian spirit,” Bird told the Globe and Mail.

Despite its recent name change and the enthusiasm of Bird and his fellow jayheads, there are still no official plans by the Canadian government to make the bird a national symbol.

It would take an act of parliament to make the Canada jay the national bird and the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for the Canada’s national symbols, told the CBC that there were currently no plans to propose adopting the jay.

The government’s current inaction won’t dissuade Professor Bird from his cause, however. If he doesn’t see any movement from the government soon, he plans on doing a “jaywalk” across the country to garner support for the bird.

“I’m hoping I don’t have to do that, because that’s a significant amount of time and effort,” he told the CBC.

“But don’t get me wrong, we won’t give up.”

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