Canada Jay Name Change Proposal

 by Ron Pittaway


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



BIG NEWS: Canada Jay name restored. The American Ornithological Society (AOS) restores Canada Jay to its original name.

Many thanks to Dan Strickland, Carla Cicero and the team of Canadian ornithologists: Ryan Norris, Theresa Burg, David Bird, Michel Gosselin and Ken Otter, who submitted the name change proposal to the AOS. Posted 14 May 2018.


Published in the Toronto Ornithological Club Newsletter, February 2018, Number 274