OTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Geographic Society can expect to ruffle some feathers by choosing a national bird in time for Canada’s 150th birthday next year.
An online survey over the last 20 months has the pecking order down to five contenders, ranging from urban regulars to boreal forest ghosts.
The society, which announced on Labour Day weekend the voting results from almost 50,000 online submissions, will stage a debate Monday in Ottawa on the relative merits of the five finalists and whether any of them should be disqualified.
Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna will kick off the debate, but the Liberals have not yet said whether they will officially designate a national bird, although the previous Conservative government was very keen on the project.
Three of the five birds with the most votes are already official provincial birds, including the common loon in Ontario, Quebec’s snowy owl and the black-capped chickadee in New Brunswick. The gray jay, commonly known as the whiskey jack, and the Canada goose round out the top five.
Aaron Kylie, the editor of the society’s Canadian Geographic magazine, says the group was blown away by the level of interest and the impassioned arguments over a national bird – including some strenuous opposition in Quebec to Canada “absconding” with the province’s avian symbol.