Guest Post: Can the Common Loon Represent Canada?

As Canadians vote for a national bird, biology instructor Camilla Fecteau weighs in on why the common loon is a frontrunner for the title.

Canadian Geographic, a non-profit publication birthed from The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, is hosting a public vote to select Canada’s national bird. Motivated by the country’s other national emblems, such as the maple leaf, Canadian Geographic is taking a stand to declare a national bird with the help of the Canadian community by 2017; voting will be open until the end of 2015.

The publication is calling upon Canadians to vote for the bird that most represents the vast land, notable winters, and the countless diversities of the country, “from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth,” embodying the nation’s motto.

Since the polls opened, a leader has emerged: the common loon. The loon, with its iconic call, evokes nostalgia and warm memories of Canada. Camilla Fecteau, lab instructor and coordinator for the Biology Department at Saint Joseph’s College, has a background in ornithology, the study of birds, and has spent time studying common loons.

With a background in ornithology, lab instructor Camilla Fecteau says the common loon is an ideal choice to be Canada's national bird. (Photo by Stefanie Martel '15)

Biology lab instructor Camilla Fecteau says the common loon is a ideal candidate for Canada’s national bird. (Photo by Stefanie Martel ’15)

Fecteau says the common loon is a top runner for Canada’s national bird because “They remind us of the wilderness. Their call elicits a sense of peaceful relaxation that comes with putting down hectic daily activities and taking time to be one with nature. Their haunting wail can be heard for miles across a calm lake, and it reminds us that we’re not the only species trying to make it on this earth.”

Canada is the breeding place for four out of the five global loon species, indicating its suitability for the success of these environmentally sensitive birds.

“Loons can be considered an indicator species,” says Fecteau. “Their presence tells us something very important about the places where they live. In order for loons to successfully nest and reproduce, they need clean bodies of water that are not overly developed, overfished, or overridden with recreational activities.”

Canada has generous amounts of untainted and undeveloped land, which makes almost the entire country a breeding ground for loons. “No other country can claim more habitat for this species,” she says. “It seems very appropriate that they would choose such a beautiful and wild bird as their representative.”

For more, visit the National Bird Project’s website.

About the author: Stefanie Martel ’15 is an editorial intern in Saint Joseph’s College’s Marketing & Communications Office. She is double-majoring in English and writing & publishing, and is earning a minor in communications.