Gray jay chosen as Canada's national bird

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TORONTO (AP) — The Royal Canadian Geographic Society said its choice for Canada's national bird epitomizes the best of the country's national traits: smart, hardy and friendly.

The Society said earlier this week that the gray jay, also known as the whiskey jack, was the winner of a two-year search for a fitting avian Canadian representative.

The gray jay, once known as the Canada jay and the "wisakedjak" of folklore in indigenous cultures, is found in the boreal forests of Canadian provinces and territories but nowhere else on the planet.

The robin-sized cousin of the raven and crow has the same brain-to-body ratio as dolphins and chimpanzees and is lauded for its friendliness and intelligence. The gray jay spends its entire life in the Canadian woods.

"It's a wonderful poster child for the boreal forest, our national and provincial parks, and for climate change," said ornithologist David Bird, part of the expert panel that helped debate the final choice whittled from a list selected by tens of thousands of Canadians.

The gray jay muscled out higher profile contenders, including the common loon, snowy owl, black-capped chickadee and Canada goose, in a contest that garnered national attention and attracted almost 50,000 online voters.

"That kind of engagement really was certainly not something we expected," said Aaron Kylie, the editor of the society's Canadian Geographic magazine.

The federal government has not committed to naming a national bird but the Canadian Geographic Society argues that Canada's 150th anniversary in the coming year offers a perfect opportunity.

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