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Biologists fight for Canadian national bird

Cara J

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Last year, wildlife biologist Dan Strickland searched documents in the Smithsonian Institute basement to determine how the Canada jay (Perisoreus canadensis) became renamed the gray jay. In an effort to reinstate popular common names for birds 60 years ago, he found, the American Ornithologists’ Union Checklist Committee had no valid reason for taking “gray jay,” then the name of an obscure west coast subspecies, and imposing it as a new overall species name for this iconic Canadian bird, rather than continuing with “Canada jay” the traditional name that was then at least 185 years old. Recently, Strickland and colleagues successfully petitioned what is now known as the North American Classification Committee to restore the old name. That’s good news for a team of Canadian biologists fighting for the jay to become Canada’s national bird. “Birds have become very important to society,” said David Bird, an emeritus professor of wildlife biology at McGill University in Montreal. “Today, millions of North Americans love feeding them and watching them. Birds feed us, they clothe us, they act as environmental barometers, and they also stimulate us in a cultural sense.” Bird has come up with a list of 17 reasons why the Canada jay should [...]

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