Bird Watcher's General Store

Rally to Make the Chickadee National Bird
of Canada
08/28/15


Dear Bird Folks,

Up here in Canada, we're having a vote to decide our national bird. Unfortunately, the Black-capped Chickadee is only in fifth place in the voting. As a fellow chickadee enthusiast, can you please give Canadians some reasons to vote for the Black-capped Chickadee to be our national bird?

- Shai, 7th Grade, Toronto, Ontario

OMG, yes, Shai,

Of course, I’ll support the chickadee for Canada’s national bird. That’s because chickadees are the best birds ever. However, I’m surprised to learn that Canada doesn’t already have a national bird. What have you folks been doing for the past 150 years? Somewhere between perfecting hockey and creating yummy Tim Horton’s donuts, someone should have come up with a national bird. But whatever, let’s get this chickadee campaign started. Before I begin, I should make two things clear. First, I like all birds, but not all birds are national bird worthy. That’s just the way it is. Also, I’m a birder who is supporting the views of a fellow birder. Don’t think of me as a pushy American butting into the business of another country (as if we would ever do that).

According to the National Bird Project website, the four birds ahead of the chickadee in the voting are the Common Loon, the Snowy Owl, the Gray Jay and the Canada Goose. The weakest candidate on the list is the Canada Goose. Why? To begin with, these birds knocked a plane into the Hudson River. Has everyone forgotten that? Also, the rest of the world can’t say this bird’s name properly. No matter how many times people are corrected (usually by me), they are determined to call it a “Canadian” Goose. That’s a problem. Then, there is their ever-growing population. Canada Geese are like that Call Me Maybe song, which at first was catchy and cute, but eventually became annoying. It’s the same thing with the geese. I remember a time when seeing a Canada Goose was a treat. But their population has multiplied to a point where some people now consider them to be annoying, or the Call Me Maybe of the bird world. No country needs an annoying national bird.

Snowy Owls are magnificent, but they make people think of the Arctic, not Canada. I know part of the Arctic is contained in Canada, but not everybody else knows that. Canadians shouldn’t have a national bird that reminds folks of someplace else. To illustrate my point, think about penguins for a minute. They live in Antarctica, right? Actually, penguins are found in many different countries throughout the world, including Argentina, South Africa, Ecuador and New Zealand. Yet, none of these countries has claimed the penguin as its national bird. Why? Because when people think of penguins they think of Antarctica, not a country. Sorry, Snowy Owls, you are not Canadian enough to be the national bird.

The Common Loon would have been a good choice thirty years ago, but then Canada made the “loonie” a one-dollar coin. Now, 100 million loonies later, this bird has become overexposed and ordinary. More importantly, the loon is only a part-time Canadian resident. Sure, loons and their haunting calls can be found on Canada’s lakes throughout the summer, but where are they in the winter when folks need them the most? These cowards avoid Canada’s famous winters by heading south or to the coast. And, to make things worse, loons totally change their color and turn drab in the winter (probably so no one sees them sneak away). No part-timer deserves to be a national bird.

The last bird ahead of the chickadee in the voting is the Gray Jay. Gray Jays are typically found in remote forests; thus, most suburban Canadians haven’t even seen one of these birds. Gray Jays are famous for being super-tame. They love to visit campgrounds and steal food off picnic tables or take snacks right from the hands of campers. They will also land on the hats of backwoods hikers and pose for photos. But Gray Jays are basically a novelty act and not to be taken seriously. They are the bird equivalent of America’s Vice-President. Canada can do better than that.

Now, let’s talk about the Black-capped Chickadee. This bird is the complete package. Like the Gray Jay, chickadees are inquisitive. But unlike Gray Jays, chickadees are found throughout Canada. You will see these birds in the deep woods as well as in suburbia. And chickadees support whatever you do. If you put out a birdfeeder, you will get chickadees. If you put out a birdbath, chickadees will drink from it. If you put up a birdhouse, chickadees will move into it. If you put nothing out, you will still get chickadees.

Unlike Canada Geese, chickadees don’t form huge messy flocks and they don’t knock planes into the Hudson River. Unlike loons, chickadees will never leave you, no matter how bad the winter is. And you’ll know when the winter is over, because you’ll hear the chickadees’ sweet “fee-bee” spring song. Finally, just to prove how awesome they are, chickadees can actually say their own name. Whenever they get excited they’ll greet you with “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” Ask a Snowy Owl to say its name and see what kind of response you get.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Shai. The Black-capped Chickadee is the perfect candidate to be Canada’s national bird. Chickadees are tough like Canadians, friendly like Canadians, and they even enjoy donuts like…well, you know. Vote Chickadee!




Artwork by Catherine Clark


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