It’s hard to believe, but Canada does not have a national bird.
It’s even harder to believe, but there’s actually someone out there who cares.
The Canadian Raptor Conservancy (CRC), from somewhere in Ontario, has captured the imagination of a nation fed up with the usual birdbrains by sponsoring a write-in contest to determine a bird of a different feather, a national bird, and then taking the results to Ottawa.
Where, presumably, they will be interred in the National Petition Graveyard along with all the others.
So score one for the CRC. But, as you might expect from an organization dedicated to conserving raptors, the results to date are skewed. The red-tailed hawk is in the lead, with the Canada goose second and the loon third.
I’m sure the red-tailed hawk is a swell bird, but it’s hardly a national icon. Not only that, its nickname is the chicken hawk. If you ask me, we don’t even want to go there.
The Canada goose already says Canada — literally — but as it has moved in and pooped all over city parks from Citadel Hill to Stanley Park, it hardly needs to be encouraged.
Who can resist the call of the loon? Certainly not Ontario, which has already adopted the loon as its provincial bird. We don’t want to launch a constitutional crisis by stealing its bird. Ontario is feeling fragile as it is.
The gull? Rats with wings. Ditto pigeons.
We could ruffle the feathers of our American cousins and adopt the bald eagle as our national bird, as there are more bald eagles in B.C. than the entire United States, but as various countries around the world have learned, it’s not wise to mess with the U.S.
Instead, why not adopt a bird that has a real Canadian personality? I nominate passer domesticus, also known as the common house sparrow. She’s a hardy little critter who toughs out the Canadian winter and survives everything we throw at her: Cats, pesticides, concrete, nasty little boys with BB guns, etc. She’s so hardy she’s on the Least Concern list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which keeps track of species around the globe. She’s a survivor.
And she couldn’t be less like the bald eagle, which is the epitome of imperialism: Proud, majestic, cruel. The house sparrow turns up every day, dependable and humble, just like us.
Considering how things are going for the eagle these days, that’s not such a bad thing.
Paul Sullivan is a Vancouver-based journalist and owner of Sullivan Media Consulting;