The Whiskey Jack Could Soon Be Canada’s National Bird

The Whiskey Jack Could Soon Be Canada’s National Bird

By Roger Currie

Whiskey Jack
A whiskey jack sits on a post in Lake Louise, Alta., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. A two-year-long, Canada-wide search has resulted in the gray jay, also known as the whiskey jack, being chosen as Canada’s national bird by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Bravo and hats off to the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. They have spent the past two years finding out which feathered creature is favoured by Canadians to be our national bird.

Despite the fact that we are thought of as a nation of beer drinkers, the winner is — wait for it — the whiskey jack! It’s also known as the grey jay, and it won out over the loon, the snowy owl, the Canada Goose, and the black-capped chickadee.

The society missed me with their survey, but I heartily concur that the whiskey jack should be one of the symbols that define us to the world, along with the beaver, the Maple Leaf , and the selfie with our prime minister.

Some years ago, when I was living out in God’s country on Lake of the Woods, I had a memorable encounter with these incredibly cheeky birds. Three of us were enjoying a snack out on the deck. A pair of grey jays landed right beside us, and before you could say true north strong and free, they were literally eating out of our hands. I had never seen anything like it. No wonder that another of their nicknames is camp robber.

Appropriately for a Canadian creature, the grey jay is a tough bird, not unlike its human cousin, the lounge lizard. They don’t fly south in the winter, and the females have been known to nurture their eggs in January snowstorms in temperatures of minus 30, or lower.

But the politicians had better hurry and make this designation official. American bird researchers say the Grey Jay population has dropped 50 percent over the past 25 years. They put the blame on — you guessed it — global warming.

Like squirrels, they gather a winter food supply in the fall, but in a mild November like we had this year, that stored food might rot. Good heavens. Raise your tumbler, please, to the whiskey jack, and urge your member of parliament to make it official.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.


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