After heated debate, the people of Calgary have spoken and officially named the black-capped chickadee as the city’s official bird.
A total of 36,677 Calgarians casted their ballots with the chickadee taking in 44 per cent of the vote amongst a choice of five birds selected through consultation with Indigenous groups and nature organizations.
The official results are as follows:
“It was a fiercely contested contest,” said Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner, who brought forward the notice of motion in mid-March to designate an official bird.
“There were a lot of people who said magpies were the bird that we truly deserve and the chickadee is the bird we aspire to, but being able to advocate for all bird species in Calgary is really important.”
Calgary was named a bird-friendly city by Nature Canada and one of the requirements to maintain the honour is to determine a top bird.
Coun. Corrine Eagletail-Frazier of the Tsuut’ina First Nation said it was an honour to be included in the project because of the significance birds have for Indigenous groups across the country.
“We really honour the birds, it’s like the messages and signs, the energy that they provide, because when they’re happy and singing we know things are good and life is good,” she said.
“It’s just a sign that something is not right when they’re not there so it’s important to protect them.”
Saturday’s announcement of Calgary’s official bird also coincides with World Migratory Bird Day with this year’s theme focussed on preventing light pollution.
Dylann Golbeck, a research coordinator and naturalist with the Weaselhead Glenmore Park Preservation Society, says light pollution is greatly affecting the migration patterns of birds and making them confused.
“With migratory birds, for example, it pulls them off of their migratory path, they'll often migrate at night. They'll keep flying around in circles, kind of confused and a lot of those birds, songbirds, for example, will start calling out and then more birds will come,” she said.
“And because we'll hear those birds calling out, then you end up with a whole mass of birds caught in this light and then getting exhausted. Because they're drawn into cities, they're not ending up at high food rich places so it ends up being really dangerous for them.”
Golbeck says her focus now is to educate Calgarians on the importance of reducing their light pollution where possible by shutting off lights when not using them or dimming lights.
Other solutions include using redshifted or warmer coloured lights.
“This is because it doesn't have the broad spectrum radiation coming off of it and the higher end of the whites and blues are more similar to the radiation that you would get coming off the sun so that more triggers a birds response to the sun.”
Chair of the Bird Friendly Calgary Team John McFaul adds that the protection of bird species has become especially crucial over the years.
“Research has shown that the number of birds in North America has dropped by about 3 billion birds through a time period of 50 years,” he said.
“So we are concerned about different things going on in our environment, everyone is concerned about climate change but the loss of biodiversity is really important. They’re like the canaries in the coal mine and if birds are doing well, our environment is probably doing well.”