At the February 2016 Toronto
Ornithological Club (TOC) meeting, our speaker Dan Strickland of
Algonquin Park told us that the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU)
changed the name Canada Jay to Gray Jay in 1957. Canadian
ornithologists and birders were saddened and disappointed, but did
not protest. Dan’s recent investigations have found that the 1957
name change was arbitrary and unnecessary. The topic has again come
to the forefront because Canada does not have an official national
bird. The Gray Jay was selected by the Royal Canadian Geographic
Society in 2016 as its candidate for Canada's national bird after
carefully considering thousands of public and expert comments.
However, the federal government has shown little interest in the
Gray Jay as a national bird, possibly due to its uninspiring name
and the American spelling of gray.
To reinstate the name Canada Jay, Dan
Strickland and American ornithologist Carla Cicero (University of
California, Berkeley) recently made a joint proposal to the American
Ornithological Society (AOS) to "Restore Canada Jay as the English
name of Perisoreus canadensis." It is one of the few birds
whose scientific name is derived from Canada. The proposal is
supported by five Canadian ornithologists including the president of
the Society of Canadian Ornithologists. The Gray Jay is the logo
bird of its journal Avian Conservation & Ecology. The AOS’s decision on the name change will be announced this
July 2018 in the Fifty-ninth supplement to the American
Ornithological Society's Check-list of North American Birds
published in the journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances. I’m
confident that Gray Jay will be changed back to Canada Jay.
It is hoped that the federal government
will be more likely to adopt the Canada Jay as our national bird
after an official name change. It is non-migratory and found in all
10 provinces and 3 territories. Luckily, it has not been chosen as a
provincial or territorial bird, making it eligible as a national
bird with no conflicts. In our 151st year as a country, it is time
we had the Canada Jay / Mésangeai du Canada as our national bird.
Lastly, an Act of Parliament will be needed to make the Canada Jay
our official bird emblem.
Photo by Jean Iron near Minden, Ontario