• Should the great blue heron be Canada's national bird? (Photo: Tina Hurd)

Canada is home to more than 450 bird species, yet somehow Canada is still one of the few nations that does not recognize a national bird. Canadian Geographic, with the help of Bird Studies Canada and other bird conservation organizations, is hoping to change that with the National Bird Project. Vote for your favourite species and contribute your own short essay today at The National Bird Project.

The essays collected below are Canadian Geographic's editors' picks for the best recent reader submissions to the National Bird Project website. We will continue to feature our favourite new pieces on the CG Compass blog. Join the discussion on Twitter using #CanadaBird!

By: Connor Albanese (Grade 2), Rockwood, Ont.

The big bold blue heron is the best bird. It is tall. It has lots of feathers and a long straight beak. It has fiery eyes for hunting frogs, fish, snakes, mice and bugs. The heron is grey, white and it has a dark blue hat. It has long legs that look like reeds in the water. When the fish come near, BAM it strikes. The heron is big and it wades slowly through the water. It waits patiently for prey.

It comes to Grandpa's farm. When I am at the farm Grandma and I see it fly slowly over the fields.

The heron lives in ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and swamps all across Canada. Swamps are very important because they help the community by making homes for ducks, beavers, moose, muskrats and many more animals. They give us fresh clean water. Swamps hold water so that it can soak into the ground for plants and animals to use. Maybe the heron will help people to remember because he hunts in swamps. Like me the heron eats fish and enjoys the water. Canada has lots and lots of lakes and maybe just maybe there is a heron in each one.

When I go to the cottage at Lake Skootamatta, I see herons beside the roads in swamps and lakes.

I like watching birds. Grandma and I keep a book about the birds I see. I have seen many birds on the farm. There are many birds in Canada, but I think the big blue heron is the best bird for Canada.

By: Peter Guy, Duncan, B.C.

I am a retired soldier of 25 years service. When I was away serving this country my thoughts would sometimes reflect home: camping with my family, the beauty of the wetlands, the call of a lone loon. Even now, the call of a loon to me echoes of a service person calling for home to seek peace and companionship.

(Sorry, the thoughts are there but the words will not come)

By: Mike Haner, Nanoose Bay, B.C.

The common loon is very Canadian: intelligent (Sir John A.), beautiful (Canadian landscape), elegant in flight and on land (Chris Hadfield), has a wide vocal range (Celine Dion) and large vocabulary (Conrad Black), has a hearty laugh and a mournful cry (KD Lang), loves solitude when appropriate (a mountain lake), raucous when need be (Margaret Atwood), raises wonderful chicks (family-oriented), monogamous (like me), smart enough to go south in winter but always returns (Leonard Cohen).

By: Dee Miller, Windsor, Ont.

The powerful call of the red-tailed hawk is so impressive that TV networks have borrowed it to replace that of the bald eagle. Many people believe that call belongs to America's eagle because of this.

Her beautiful red tail matches the red of our maple leaf. She is strong, and captures her prey with agility and strength. She and her mate attend to the needs of their offspring, take care of their young diligently year after year.

We can see her guarding the highways as we drive to our destinations, and she gives us a sense of awe and wonder if we chance to see her swoop down in the fields nearby.

By: Nikolai Rambo, Burnaby, B.C.

The Raven is the bird of legend, revered by Aboriginals for its cleverness, by the Old Norse as a symbol of wisdom, and by those of us today for its intellect and curiosity. It is not as pestering as the crow nor as arrogant as the eagle. It watches, and speaks in many tongues, like the many cultures of this land. Of all the birds chosen, they are the only ones who live throughout Canada with a stubborn determination against the cold, year round.

Any who have seen these acrobatic birds soaring, diving and looping up and down the mountain peaks can attest to their daring joy.

Unlike the loon, which sits comfortably in Canada's many lakes, the raven spreads its wings to explore all the vast wilderness, from lake to ocean, from prairie to peak, from tree to glacier. And so it is that the raven exemplifies Canada as it should be: community in a sparsely populated land, adventure in the rugged wilderness, wisdom in decisions, resourcefulness, and above all, the ability to take joy in that which others may take for granted.

By: Lynne Stevenson, Kapuskasing, Ont.

The black-capped chickadee (mésange à tête noire) seems to me the perfect Canadian bird. He is Canadian through and through:

He is found all over Canada, robust in winter, gregarious and always cheerful. Generous too, since he is usually the first to find a birdfeeder, and he lets all the birds in the neighbourhood know about it so they can share.

A fine little fellow.


Le mésange à tête noire (black-capped chickadee) me semble l'idéal oiseau national.
C'est un canadien au fond:

Il se trouve partout au Canada, robuste durant l'hiver, gentil, grégaire et toujours de bonne humeur. Généreux aussi, car il est d'habitude le premier à trouver la mangeoire, et il laisse savoir tous les oiseaux du cartier pour en partager.
Un bon petit bonhomme.