It’s hardy, toughs out winter and it’s friendly.
It’s the grey jay – also known as the whisky jack – and it is the Royal Canadian Geographic Society’s official choice for Canada’s national bird.
Biologist Jared Clarke said it’s unlikely to see the grey jay in Regina or other southern prairie parts of Saskatchewan. But it is found in the northern boreal forest in Saskatchewan.
The grey jay is in the same family as ravens, crows and blue jays – and they’re smart.
“You go up in the forest and these birds have come to realize that humans are associated with food,” Clarke said.
“You put out some food in your hand, these birds will actually come down and land on your hand and take peanuts or bread crumbs or whatever right out of your hand.”
But the grey jay wasn’t the people’s choice.
The two-year search for a national bird also included a voting component. The common loon received the most votes, followed by the snowy owl. The grey jay came in third.
Clarke, a self-described “raptor guy”, said he would have voted for the snowy owl. But there was one caveat.
“The thing that kind of disqualified or dissuaded the panel from looking at the snowy owl or the loon is that the loon is the provincial bird of Ontario and the snowy owl is actually the provincial bird of Quebec,” Clarke explained.
“Do we want our national bird to be Ontario’s provincial bird or do we want to have a Canadian bird that isn’t already belonging to Quebec or Ontario?”
The Royal Canadian Geographic Society now hopes the federal government will make the grey jay Canada’s official bird.