A monochrome saw-whet owl peers over its shoulder on the cover of the June 1938 issue of the Canadian Geographical Journal. A snowy owl takes flight from the cover of Canadian Geographic’s Birds Photography 2015 special collector’s edition. Birds have graced the face of more than 40 issues of Canadian Geographic over the 86 years this magazine has been in print, and it’s no wonder why. The bright colours, piercing eyes and arresting poses of Canada’s more than 450 plumed species make great subjects.
However, not one of Canada’s hundreds of species officially represents the country as its national bird. That’s why last year, Canadian Geographic launched the National Bird Project to designate an official bird for Canada by 2017. Canadians cast close to 50,000 votes for their favourite birds and now, it’s down to the top five species: the common loon, the snowy owl, the gray jay/whiskey jack, the Canada goose and the black-capped chickadee.
On Sept. 19, an expert panel of judges, including Steven Price, President of Bird Studies Canada, George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and novelist Noah Richler, will gather at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa to debate the merits of the species they believe is most worthy of the title (get tickets here!). Then in its December 2016 issue, Canadian Geographic will announce its recommendation for Canada’s national bird. From there, it’s up to the federal government to make an official declaration.
To celebrate the National Bird Project and the upcoming debate, we’ve gathered a selection of bird covers from the Canadian Geographic archives along with their original captions from each decade the magazine has been in print.
Birds Photography 2015