Great Egret

Great Egret

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A National Bird...My Choice

You have probably heard about the National Bird Project sponsored by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society. It seems to be a popularity contest, which is not without merit, but overall the criteria described on that site are vague.

Currently, and for most of the duration of this project, Common Loon (6820 votes) is the leader by a comfortable margin, tallying about 26% of the total votes so far. Probably it evokes memories of its haunting wail call on a northern lake, certainly an appealing aspect during enjoyable summer vacation for many. And it is on our currency. Snowy Owl (5132), Gray Jay/Whiskey Jack (4588), Canada Goose (2083) and Black-capped Chickadee (1740) round out the top five.

Any of these would be a decent choice, but I often root for an underdog. Hey....I've been a Toronto Maple Leafs fan for more than 55 years, but at least I can remember the last time they won the Stanley Cup :-). That memory is getting fainter as the years go by......Toronto's hockey team will be celebrating its centennial in 2017....maybe it can celebrate a Stanley Cup while they are at it? But I digress.....

If I had my choice, I might nominate Pileated Woodpecker. Unfortunately it has only tallied a mere 268 votes so far.

Here are my criteria for choosing Pileated Woodpecker (PIWO):
1. It is a permanent resident of Canada. Two of the top 5 (Snowy Owl and Gray Jay) are also permanent residents. Snowy Owl is migratory to some extent, but even at that, it seldom migrates out of Canada. Common Loon is strongly migratory and during the winter months, there are very few if any in Canada except maybe off either east or west coast. They are virtually non-existent on the southern coast! It isn't as hardy as most Canadians! Most Canada Geese migrate south during the harsher winter months, and many people would like it if they stayed away for longer. Even chickadees migrate to some extent, although the numbers that linger in winter vary from year to year.

2. It can be found across Canada. In looking at the range maps, PIWO is a resident of all provinces and territories except for Nunavut. In looking at a Nunavut checklist, there are no woodpecker species recorded. Maybe PIWO just hasn't been documented there yet, or perhaps the checklist I referred to is not up-to-date. Of course it helps if you have trees, as woodpeckers peck wood, and that landscape has very few compared to all the rest of Canada. PIWO has been recorded from as far south as Pelee Island, the most southerly inhabited part of Canada, to as far north as the territories. It is a denizen of the deep, northern woods, yet can survive in woodlands within or at least close to some of the most southern urban settings where people sometimes see them in their back yard.

3. It is easily recognizable. It is large and distinctive. Many people are familiar with Pileated Woodpecker, even many people who are not birders. It is the 'Woody Woodpecker' character that lots of folks will likely remember.

It isn't clear, when the survey is completed, exactly what Canadian Geographic will do with the results. Presumably they will lobby the federal government to pass a bill with the most popular bird becoming our national one.


  1. A good choice. Or, we can at least make it Rondeau's choice bird!

    1. Thanks, Blake. However if it came to establishing an official Rondeau bird, I have always promoted Prothonotary. The park was where it was first discovered nesting in Canada back in the early 1930s and has always been the Canadian stronghold for it.

    2. Prothonotary is an obvious choice!

    3. I'm very surprised that there isn't a national bird.
      I love the very pretty Pileated Wodpecker with his red tuft/crest on his head.
      Paula, NZ.

    4. Hi good to hear from you. Thanks so much for your visit and comment.
      It is a bit surprising that a national bird hasn't been established yet, but maybe we will have one by the time of our 150th anniversary in 2017......better late than never!