It was the January/February issue of Canadian Geographic Magazine in which Editor Aaron Kylie pointed out that our beautiful country was without a national bird, despite being declared the undisputed home of hockey, maple trees, and beavers.

It wasn’t long after that Canadian Geographic and The Royal Canadian Geographical Society teamed up to tackle this fallacy and now, nearly two years later, they are honing in on Canada’s national bird.

“The Americans have the (bald) eagle, the British have the robin, the French have the rooster, New Zealanders have the kiwi. We don’t have one,” Deborah Chapman, communications manager for the Royal Canadian Geographic Society told the Star. “Our 150th birthday is coming next year so we’re kind of putting the pedal to the metal to get us a national bird in time for our birthday.”

Voting closes on August 31, 2016, as Canadians cast more than 42,000 votes and close to 13,000 essays in an attempt to narrow down an avian selection.   With over 450 species found in Canada, the list had to be narrowed down to a choice between 40 different species.

“It had to be a bird that had a fairly substantial national range, or was fairly iconic in a regional sense,” Kylie told CBC News.

The Results

After tallying up the votes, organizers have now narrowed down the country’s selection to five birds:

  1. Common Loon (13,995 votes)
  2. Snowy Owl (8,948 votes)
  3. Gray Jay/Whiskey Jack (7,918 votes)
  4. Canada Goose (3,616 votes)
  5. Black-capped Chickadee ( 3,324 votes)

“However unscientific, this project reflects a spectacular sampling of the population, as the Can Geo team recorded input from every province and territory — and from Canadian expats in the U.S. and other parts of the world — in both official languages,” Canadian Geographic’s managing editor Nick Walker said in a statement on the Canadian Geographic website.

Next Steps

With the citizen science out of the way, experts, ornithologists, authors and other industry thought leaders are set to convene to discuss and determine which bird of the finalists will officially be crowned the National Bird of Canada.

Panellists for this Can Geo Talks event will include

  • Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada
  • David Bird, Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Biology, McGill University
  • Shirley Ida Williams, Professor Emeritus of Indigenous Studies, Trent University
  • George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate
  • Noah Richler, Novelist

Catharine McKenna, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, is also expected to provide opening remarks about why birds are important to Canadians.

Tickets to the panel debate are $10 and are available on eventbrite.ca, or join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #canadabird.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s official recommendation for Canada’s National Bird will appear in the December 2016 issue of Canadian Geographic, on newsstands Nov. 21.