Inquiring birdbrains want to know: what should be Canada’s national fowl?

Inquiring birdbrains want to know: what should be Canada’s national fowl?

Left to right: Common loon, trumpeter swan, Justin Bieber, Canada goose, red-tailed hawk, crow 

The Canadian Raptor Conservancy—which sounds like Jurassic Park North but, sadly, isn’t—is holding a contest to name a Canadian national bird.

Wait. Canada doesn’t have a national bird? Canada goose? Nope. Loon? Nope. Justin Bieber (for the plumage)? Nope. Our system of government has left this, like so many things, up to the provinces, giving us a patchwork of different provincial fowl but no single national bird. The Mark got a handful of bird experts together and asked for five suggestions. Here, our arguments for and against:

Canada Goose
It has Canada right in its name, which puts it ahead of the maple leaf and tied with “O Canada” for national significance. On the downside, they’re noisy and they apparently crap their own body weight every hour. But in an age where toilet openings are mayor-level events, maybe a bird that’s eating enough fibre is appropriate. Final word: PASS

Trumpeter Swan
Alan Broadbent nominates the trumpeter swan based solely on its reputation for attacking and killing Canada geese. We can’t endorse swan-on-goose violence, but there’s something to recommend the elegant jerk of the bird kingdom: it was once nearly extinct but is enjoying an impressive recovery. Even more Canadian, its biggest problem today is a more aggressive, larger species brought in from Europe. In any case, an all-white bird sounds entirely inappropriate for a country that will be one third visible minority by 2031. Final word: FAIL

Common Loon
The “common” loon is about as grand a national symbol as the “bald” eagle. In its favour, the bird lives everywhere in Canada and is already on the dollar. Perhaps the loonie is the perfect metaphor for Canada: it keeps flirting with parity to the greenback, only to inevitably retreat—as it did today—as if our bird-themed currency can’t quite believe it measures up to the Yanks’. Final word: PASS

Short-Beaked Crow
This is the NDP of birds. The crow is caring, lives in close-knit communities and is fond of talking through its differences. It’s unlikely to ever be a bird of national stature, unless it makes a deal to form a coalition with a larger bird. Final word: FAIL

Red-Tailed Hawk
A strong, carnivorous predator that’s just as happy in rural Canada as it is in cities. The only one on The Mark’s list that’s an actual raptor, this brash meat eater would no doubt appeal to the Conservative government’s base. But all Canadians can identify with this bird: its call has been recorded and used over and over in films—of the bald eagle. Just as Americans steal the maple leaf for their bags when they travel in Europe, their bird steals the voice of a (potential) Canadian symbol. How fitting is that? Final word: PASS

• Vote for Canada’s National Bird [The Mark]
• Which bird will best the beaver as national symbol? [Globe and Mail]

Images: loon, PedalFreak; goose, anemoneprojectors; swan, Rick Harris; crows, Hiestun Photography; hawk, kellycolganazar; Bieber, Kerosene Photography.