Steve Patterson
A National Bird?

A National Bird?

            I just found out that Canada is looking for a new national bird. More specifically, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society is asking Canadians to vote online for the bird “most worthy of national designation”.

Maybe I’m crazy, but don’t we already have a national bird? The CANADA GOOSE. It’s right there in the name. Like the Bald American Eagle, only our bird has hair.

Noted Canadian author Will Ferguson agrees, saying the “bad-tempered” goose has the kind of attitude he wants in a national emblem. Think about it. Canada Geese are both black and white (so, multi-cultural) they’re also sort of grayish (like our aging population) they fly south in groups every winter and they never declare anything at the border when they come back in. There can’t be a bird more Canadian than that can there?

Well, according to the thousands of votes cast on the RCGS website since the contest began this month (which is the most interest Canadians have shown in the RCGS website in the history of history) maybe there can be.

In particular, McGill university ornithologist David Bird (I dare you to find someone whose occupation more firmly embraces their surname) says the best choice would be the “gray jay” or, as the French call it “le Mesangeai du Canada” (I’m not fluent, but this doesn’t sound like an exact translation). According to Mr. Bird (literally) the gray jay would be the best choice because they live in every province or territory of Canada and are known by those who come across them for “gently petitioning for food”.

Great Mr. Bird. You want Canada’s bird to reflect our proud tradition of panhandling? Why not just choose the seagull or the sparrow or any other bird that relies on begging humans for food, which, now that I think about it, is pretty much any other bird.

But the Canada Goose is NOT the top vote getter so far. It’s not even second. It’s third.

The top vote getter so far, with over 1,000 votes, is the “Common Loon”. Not that surprising I guess since it is featured on the only piece of currency common to pretty much every Canadian and has even become the de-facto name of our 1 dollar coin. All these years of Canadians asking each other for “loonies” has not only propelled it to the top of the list for national bird choice but has also instilled in us the habits apparently more common to the gray jay.

The second top vote getter is the “Snowy Owl” which, I admit, is a very cool-looking bird and comes from the bird family best known for being “wise”. So it may truly be the wisest choice. But owls do that weird thing with their heads, which is, quite frankly, terrifying. Plus their inquisitive nature of always asking “who?” is not only grammatically incorrect (it should almost always be “whom”) but it becomes monotonous in a very short span of time. Would it kill you to ask “why?” once in a while? As in “why does the Harper government hate the environment so much?” Or maybe even “Where is all the snow going?” which, when it comes right down to it, should be the first question being asked by someone with the first name “Snowy”.

So I’m sticking with the current 3rd place Canada Goose as my FIRST choice for Canada’s national bird. Sure they’re not traditionally “majestic”. Yes, their “siren song” sounds more like an un-tuned bagpipe than the Common Loon’s comforting coo. Granted, their gross incontinence can be seen as a nuisance.

But that’s what we Canadians today are: Anti-monarchist, bad-singing trouble makers who aren’t afraid to crap on ourselves and the United States when we have to.


Steve Patterson is an award-winning standup comedian and the host of CBC Radio’s The Debaters. For more information visit

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