Black-hooded tit named Calgary’s official bird

After heated discussions, Calgary residents have spoken and officially proclaimed the black-headed tit the city’s official bird.

A total of 36,677 Calgarians cast their votes, with the most receiving 44 percent of the vote from a choice of five birds selected in consultation with indigenous groups and wildlife organizations.

The official results are as follows:

  • Black-hooded Tit – 16,114 votes (44 percent);
  • Black-billed Magpie – 8,933 (24 percent);
  • Northern flicker – 6,076 (17 percent);
  • Blue Jay – 2,938 (eight percent); and
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch – 2,616 (seven percent).

“It was a hard-fought match,” Ward 11 Coun said. Kourtney Penner, who put forward the motion in mid-March to designate an official bird.

“There were a lot of people saying that magpies were the bird we really deserve and that the titmouse is the bird we strive for, but it’s really important to be able to advocate for all bird species in Calgary.”

Calgary has been named a bird-friendly city by Nature Canada and one of the requirements to maintain the honor is the designation of a top bird.

count. Corrine Eagletail-Frazier of the Tsuut’ina First Nation said it was an honor to be included in the project because of the significance birds have to indigenous groups across the country.

“We really honor the birds. It’s like the messages and signs, the energy they give, because when they’re happy and singing, we know that all is well and life is good,” she said.

“It’s just a sign that something isn’t right when they’re not there, so it’s important to protect them.”

The announcement of Calgary’s official bird on Saturday also coincides with World Migratory Bird Day, with this year’s theme focused on preventing light pollution.

Dylann Golbeck, a research coordinator and naturalist at the Weaselhead Glenmore Park Preservation Society, says light pollution greatly affects birds’ migration patterns and confuses them.

“In migratory birds, for example, it pulls them off their migratory path, they often migrate at night. They will keep flying in circles, a little confused and a lot of those birds, songbirds for example, will start calling and then more birds will come,” she said.

“And because we’re going to hear those birds calling, you’re going to get a whole bunch of birds that get caught in this light and then get exhausted. Because they are drawn to cities, they don’t end up in places where a lot of food is eaten, so it becomes really dangerous for them.”

Golbeck says her focus is now on educating Calgarians about the importance of reducing their light pollution where possible by turning lights off when not in use or dimming lights.

Other solutions include using red-shifted or warmer colored lights.

“This is because it’s not getting the broad spectrum radiation from it and the higher part of the whites and blues is more like the radiation you’d get from the sun, so it triggers more of a bird’s response to the sun.”

Bird Friendly Calgary Team Chairman John McFaul adds that protecting bird species has become especially critical over the years.

“Research has shown that the number of birds in North America has decreased by about 3 billion birds over a 50-year period,” he said.

“So we are concerned about various things that are happening in our environment, everyone is concerned about climate change, but the loss of biodiversity is very important. They are like the canaries in the coal mine and if the birds are doing well, our environment is probably also doing well.”

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