This week, a two-year long search ended. The Royal Canadian Geographic Society chosen Canada’s national bird – the gray jay, otherwise known as the whiskey jack.
Meet our new national bird https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/meet-our-national-bird-gray-jay (A gray jay, a.k.a. the whiskey jack or Canada jay – now named Canada’s national bird by Canadian Geographic – in Western Canada’s mountain forests. (Photo: Tony Joyce/Canadian Geographic Photo Club)
As noted on their website: With 450 species in the country to choose from, Canadian Geographic’s decision was made neither lightly nor quickly. This national debate has been running since January 2015, in fact. But after weighing the opinions and preferences of tens of thousands of Canadians, as well as the expertise of our National Conservation Partners at Bird Studies Canada and other ornithologists and conservationists, as well as cultural experts and Indigenous Peoples, that list was narrowed to five birds. And one finalist best met all reasonable criteria.
We give you the gray jay. Also known as the whiskey jack or Canada jay, it is Canadian Geographic’s official recommendation for National Bird of Canada.
I love the fact that there are ties to aboriginal people too. As noted:
They are important to Indigenous Peoples. The common moniker “whiskey jack” has nothing to do with the grain-based alcohols, but is rather an anglicization of the Cree Wisakedjak and similar variations used by nations in the Algonquian language family, which makes the gray jay Canada’s only bird commonly referred to by a traditional Indigenous name.
So, the gray jay, or whiskey jack (which, you have to admit, is an infinitely better name – thank you to the Algonquins!) is found throughout Canada – in all provinces and territories. The whiskey jack doesn’t leave Canada when winter comes, instead it nests through the cold of winter. It’s also known to be a very intelligent and hardy bird. Sounds like a pretty good candidate for a Canadian national bird to me!
But where do you find the whiskey jack?
Just about everywhere in Canada.
In fact, it’s not been recorded outside of North America.
Want to see where in Canada?
Well, here’s a range of recently recorded photos. See here
Want to see the whiskey jack?
Well, they hang out in the boreal forest.
They hang out in and around most of Canada, as the photo evidence shows.
The whiskey jack has been photographed and documented in Vancouver, Jasper Park, Banff, and Calgary. Does that routing sound familiar? Perhaps you’d like to take a Rocky Mountaineer trip? I’m hosting an event next Monday with Rocky Mountaineer on the 28th. The trip goes from Vancouver to Calgary. Details are below.
The whiskey jack is also found throughout central and eastern Newfoundland. Perhaps it’s time for you to do a Lindblad Expeditions circumnavigation of Newfoundland next year, like I did this past September. Travel with the best naturalists and National Geographic photographers onboard Lindblad.
I have some other ideas on travelling to see these now iconic national birds. Let me know if you’d like to chase them.