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Quick-do you know the bird emblem of your province? OK, maybe you know what it is, but do you know when it was chosen?

Most provinces already had a provincial flower, tree, and gemstone, but it wasn't until 1977 that Prince Edward Island chose its bird emblem, and another half dozen years before New Brunswick chose theirs. Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province with two official birds, and Nova Scotia's provincial bird emblem is less than 10 years old.

A public vote in association with Environment Week in 1976 led to the blue jay being selected the avian emblem of PEI. A familiar sight throughout the Atlantic region, the blue jay is at home in both forests and urban areas. Both loved and hated, the bird is never ignored. Its piercing call warns of danger and informs other birds of available food, while its blue plumage is clearly visible against the green and brown of the trees. There is magic in a blue jay feather. Blue pigment is unusual in birds; the colour is created from the refraction of light by the inner structure of the feather. If the feather is crushed, the blue disappears. Look for feathers in the late summer when the birds go through a moult.

The black-capped chickadee was proclaimed the official bird of New Brunswick in August 1983, following a contest conducted by the provincial Federation of Naturalists. A newspaper campaign focused on four candidates-the black-capped chickadee, grey jay, American robin, and white-throated sparrow. Out of 2,238 votes cast, the black-capped chickadee received 990 votes or 44 per cent.

A fascinating trait of these birds is their habit of storing food in autumn and remembering where it has been stored. Studies have shown that chickadees can remember and retrieve food from its storage site for up to 28 days. Scientists found that birds that store food have a portion of their brain that is three times larger than birds that do not have this habit.

As a regular visitor to feeding stations, this friendly bird can be encouraged to eat sunflower seeds out of your hand. Its cheery demeanour and familiar "chick-a-dee dee dee" call makes the chickadee a favourite of children and adults alike.

One of Newfoundland and Labrador's chosen birds is one of the most popular and well-known seabirds in Canada.

The Atlantic puffin, sometimes called the clown bird, is known for its bright colours during breeding season. Many people wouldn't recognize it in its regular winter plumage-in fact, people once thought it was an entirely different species.

Newfoundland and Labrador also declared the "partridge" or ptarmigan, its provincial game bird in 1996. The partridge is an Arctic bird, and the Burin and Avalon peninsulas may be the most southern, naturally occurring, extremity for this bird's range in North America. Found primarily in barrens and high country, the province's two partridges, the willow ptarmigan and the rock ptarmigan, can be found both on the island and in Labrador, epitomizing the open wilderness of this province.

It took Nova Scotia almost 20 years to decide on their bird emblem. Starting in the late 1970s the Nova Scotia Bird Society began lobbying the government to correct the omission. By 1989, the story had captured the public and media interest. A radio poll was taken in 1990, followed by a newspaper poll. Several species were recommended including the white-throated sparrow, common loon, Sable Island's Ipswich sparrow, the grey jay and the blue jay, as well as the osprey. The NS Museum of Natural History set up the Provincial Bird Working Group and with the input of 70 wildlife and environmental groups, recommended the osprey.

Also known as the fishing eagle or fish hawk, the osprey can be found on all continents, except in areas where water surfaces are frozen for most of the year. The osprey's diet consists almost entirely of fish, and watching it hover and dive feet first into an ocean or lake, disappear under the water and reappear taking flight with a fish in its talons, is a magnificent sight.

An osprey nest is used year after year and is usually very visible on the top of a large tree, or on artificial structures including power line towers, factory chimneys and nesting platforms erected for this purpose. Built of a huge amount of dead branches, the bird also interweaves rope, cloth, and even antlers. Such things as rag dolls, toy boats and hula hoops have been found in osprey nests. After the summer nesting season is over the bird repairs the nest for use the following year.

The choice of these symbols can be said to accurately represent our Atlantic area-ocean loving, friendly, creative, outspoken, colourful-words that not only describe our provincial birds but also our people.

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