For the Birds Radio Program: Provincial Birds

Original Air Date: March 11, 1999

Laura is envious of Canada because Prince Edward Island commemorates the Blue Jay as its provincial bird. (Definitely aired this month, the day after the State Bird program. Otherwise the date isn’t known for sure)

Audio missing


Last time I talked about the sorry fact that the Blue Jay has not been honored as state bird of a single state. I was finishing up that program when I suddenly realized that the country that brings us the Toronto Blue Jays might well have commemorated Nature’s Perfect Bird with provincial bird status. SO I did a search on the Internet and discovered that Prince Edward Island recognizes the Blue Jay as official provincial bird. Yep–it’s little wonder that the country that brought us Michael J. Fox would distinguish a bird with the good humor and physical exuberance of Fox.

Learning that my favorite bird is beloved by a while Canadian province was pretty darned thrilling for me, but I was just as delighted with other provincial choices for top bird. Steller’s Jay is the provincial bird of British Columbia. This close relative of the Blue Jay is as close as the western provinces have to a real Blue Jay, so that seemed like a fine choice. The Yukon chose another Blue Jay relative, the raven, also known there as the trickster. So fully 25 percent of the 12 Canadian provinces chose jays or their relatives, compared to absolutely none of the states.

Birds of prey are also not represented by a single US state, yet five Canadian provinces chose them. Nova Scotia is symbolized by the Osprey and Northwest Territories by the Gyrfalcon. Alberta picked the Great Horned Owl, and Quebec the Snowy Owl. Manitoba, home of Robert Nero, one of the world authorities on Great Gray Owls, chose that magnificent owl for its symbol.

Two provinces chose birds that are state birds south of the border. New Brunswick shares with Maine and Massachusetts the Black-capped Chickadee, and Ontario and Minnesota share the loon. Saskatchewan is the only province that picked a game bird, the Sharp-tailed Grouse. And Newfoundland picked a bird that may be even more adorable than a Blue Jay, the Atlantic Puffin.

For the most part, the Canadian provinces selected birds that are found year-round, the two exceptions being Nova Scotia’s Osprey and Ontario’s loon. Most are birds that can be found in both the settled and wild places within the province they each symbolize. Also, most of the birds are associated with folklore and mythology, giving them rich historical and cultural value as well as ornithological significance. All this was pleasing to my sensibilities. When it comes right down to it, being a state or provincial bird isn’t really that big a deal, but I sure am glad that at least the people on Prince Edward Island recognize Nature’s Perfect Bird for what it is.