Which of these 5 feathered finalists will become Canada’s official bird?

While our neighbours to the south proudly boast the bald eagle as their national bird, Canada lacks its own winged emblem of national pride. 

The National Bird Project aims to change all that. After a countrywide votea cutthroat formal debate and an awful lot of squawking on Twitter, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society will unveil its pick for Canada’s national bird tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

It will make the selection from five feathered finalists, then lobby the federal government to officially adopt the winner in an Act of Parliament in 2017 to coincide with the country’s 150th birthday celebrations.

Here’s a look at the contenders. 

Black-capped chickadee: a symbol of unity 

At the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s official National Bird Debate in September, Canada’s poet laureate, George Elliott Clarke, made an impassioned plea for the chickadee, “a bird that exists throughout the country,” in both rural and urban areas.

FEAX Backyard Bird Count 20100209

Black-capped chickadee can be found from coast to coast to coast, in urban or rural areas. (Kamloops Daily News via Canadian Press)

The chickadee would signal to the world that we embrace our diversity and overcome our differences, he said. 

“This is the bird for Canadian unity,” Clarke said. “This is the bird that breaks down all barriers, provincial and regional and for that matter, international.”

Canada goose: our northern namesake 

Why the Canada goose? It’s in the name, argued Mark Graham, vice-president of research and collections for the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Bird Flu

The Canada goose is so Canadian, it has ‘Canada’ in its name. (Lindsey Bauman/the Hutchinson News via Associated Press)

“It bears our name. It is a northern bird; we are a northern country,” Graham said. “Geese are smart and strong, qualities we like to assign to Canadians.”

And that’s not all the goose has in common with us as.

“Like Canadians, some adapt well to winter and stick around, and others fly south when it gets cold,” Graham said.

Whiskey jack: friendly and smart

The whiskey jack has more in common with the Canadian people, argued David Bird, a professor of wildlife biology at McGill University.

Gray jay pair

The whiskey jack, also known as the gray jay or the Canada jay, could soon become Canada’s national bird. (Dan Strickland)

“If I had to pick a bunch of words to describe a Canadian, I would pick extremely friendly, hearty, adaptable, intelligent, trusting and opportunistic. If I had to pick a bird that fits all those characteristics, it would be the grey jay/Canada jay/whiskey jack.”

Snowy owl: a fierce huntress 

Alex MacDonald, senior conservation manager at Nature Canada, argued that no other bird better represents “the True North strong and free.”

Owl Rescued

Snowy owls are patient and skilled hunters. (Joel Bissell/Muskegon Chronicle via AP)

“The snowy owl is uniquely adapted to life in the unforgiving Canadian winter and the brief Arctic summer,” he said. 

What’s more, he said, the majestic beast is a symbol of female empowerment.

“It’s 2016, folks. The snowy owl is a great example of Canadian girl power. The females are not only physically stronger but also socially dominant over the males. My Canada includes equal opportunities for women and female snowy owls and yours should too.”

Common loon: the people’s bird

In the vote that narrowed down the five finalists, the common loon earned the most support. That alone should qualify it as the bird of the people, said Steven Price, president of Bird Studies Canada. 

Loon Restoration

In a national vote, the loon came out on top. (Pat Wellenbach/Associated Press)

He defended the creature that adorns our coins with a  poem: 

“The popular choice, loons lead the bird race/ They flap and they swim and they dive to first place/ 37 per cent, the people spoke clearly/ In Canada that gets you a federal majority.”

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