2022—O Canada Jay

The Canada Jay is a quintessentially Canadian bird. Its territory extends across all of Canada’s provinces although it does extend into a few of the United States, including Minnesota where I took this photograph. I overhead a woman at Sax-Zim Bog explaining in an exasperated tone to her companion, that “it’s a Gray Jay,” but they “went and changed it” she said. Yes, in 2018, the common name of perisoreus canadensis was changed from Gray Jay to Canada Jay by the American Ornithological Society (AOS). The irony is that the bird’s Latin name includes “canadensis” a term which means “of Canada” used in taxonomy for species indigenous to or strongly associated with Canada so it seems odd that it ever needed to be changed to Gray Jay in the first place. The other irony is that the Canada Jay was called the Canada Jay from at least 1831, when John J. Audubon used the name on his drawings, until 1957 when the AOS’ predecessor, the American Ornithological Union, changed the bird’s common name to Gray Jay. Of course none of this set well with Canadian ornithologists and the further insult came with the Americanized spelling of gray, not the Canadian spelling, grey. The 2018 decision set things right again. Now the supporters of this gregarious jay are facing a difficult campaign to have it declared Canada’s national bird after the Canadian Government made it clear that they are not seeking more national symbols for Canada.