World Stamps

Fresh flock of Birds of Canada definitive stamps to take flight Aug. 1

Apr 30, 2021, 12 AM

By Fred Baumann

The second installment in a planned three-year series showcasing the official birds of Canada takes wing Aug. 1 with five more dynamic stamps leaving the nest.

These feathered creatures were hatched by illustrator Keith Martin and designers Mike Savage, Kosta Tsetsekas, and Adrian Horvath of Signals Design Group of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Signals Design Group has crafted Canadian stamps since at least 2009, including this year’s Star Trek: Year 2 stamps issued April 27 (Linn’s, May 22, page 12). 

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As with the 2016 Birds of Canada stamps (Scott 2929-2934), Martin paid special attention to their physicality, characteristics, and distinctive details, with special attention to how they would be portrayed philatelically.

“I was fascinated by the subtleties in their wing feather patterns,” Martin told Canada Post. “Their nuances make each bird unique and beautiful.”

As on last year’s stamps, the designers avoided elements that would detract in any way from the birds, which accounts for the absence of typical stamp elements such as background illustration and elaborate frames.

Aside from “Canada” and the maple-leaf “P” designating them as paying Canada’s domestic letter rate (currently 85¢), the backgrounds include only the scientific name and two-letter abbreviation for the province or territory of which it is the official bird.  

Featured in this year’s installment of the Birds of Canada stamps are a trio of powerful raptors, a shy aquatic bird with a haunting call, and a beautiful blue backyard bully: the great gray owl (Strix nebulosa), gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), common loon (Gavia immer), and blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata).

The blue jay is the smallest of this year’s birds for the smallest Canadian province, Prince Edward Island, chosen by a province-wide vote in 1976.

A member of the crow family, the blue jay shares their intelligent, aggressive nature. It is readily identified by its distinctive blue, black, and white plumage and the grating, raucous call with which it greets all comers.

The blue jay is at home year-round in nine Canadian provinces, and its breeding range includes northeastern British Columbia as well.

In 2000, the blue jay appeared on 46¢ stamps in an earlier Birds of Canada series that began in 1996 (Scott 1842 and 1846). Also, a 47¢ stamp issued in 2001 47¢ shows the Toronto Blue Jays logo to mark that baseball team’s 25th anniversary (Scott 1901).

Ontario’s provincial bird, the common loon is found throughout Canada and the United States, as well as Iceland, coastal Greenland, and northern Eurasia, where its common name is “diver” for its skill in catching fish underwater.

As graceful as it is on a lake, or flying at speeds that can top 70 miles per hour, the location of the loon’s legs at the back of a heavy breast make it slow and ungainly on land.

The loon’s beauty on the water has made it a favorite Canadian definitive stamp subject, seen first on a 5¢ Wildlife stamp issued in 1957 (Scott 369), a role it reprised 41 years later on a large-format $1 stamp in 1998 (Scott 1687).

Most recently, an adult loon with two chicks appeared in 2012 on $1.29 Juvenile Wildlife stamps in three formats: booklet, coil, and souvenir sheet (Scott 2511, 2508, and 2504c).

For the record, a western relative, the Pacific loon, was featured on 46¢ Birds of Canada stamps in 2000 (Scott 1841 and 1845).

The gyrfalcon became the official bird of Canada’s Northwest Territories in 1990. The Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories describes this omnivorous raptor as “the largest and most magnificent of the falcons,” noting that it “breeds throughout the tundra, including all the Arctic islands.”

The description on the website continues: “Gyrfalcons usually winter in the North and during that season can be found anywhere in the Northwest Territories. … They are expert hunters, and extremely fast and powerful fliers.”

The gyrfalcon was previously depicted in 2003 on a Canadian 65¢ John James Audubon’s Birds stamp (Scott 1983).

Nova Scotia made the osprey its official bird in 1994. Also known as the fish eagle, fish hawk, and sea hawk, the osprey is unusual because it is a single species that lives in coastal regions on every continent but Antarctica, with only slight variations worldwide.

These superb hunters mostly dine on fish of every kind up to 4½ pounds, although they too are omnivores as opportunity or necessity dictates.

The osprey previously landed on 46¢ Birds of Canada stamps in 2000 (Scott 1840, 1844).

One of the world’s largest owls with a wingspan up to 51 inches, Manitoba’s great gray owl also is found in every province and territory from Ontario to the Pacific Ocean, and with a northerly range across Eurasia from eastern Siberia to Finland.

A peerless predator, this owl is known throughout its global range by at least half a dozen different names, including “phantom of the north.”

It dines chiefly on small rodents, consuming about 2,550 per year. It is the only one of this year’s five official birds not previously depicted on a Canadian stamp.  

The Birds of Canada stamps are sold in self-adhesive, die-cut booklets of 10 as Canada Post order number 414051111; and in souvenir sheets of five with moisture-activated PVA gum, order number 404051145.

The stamps measure 20 millimeters by 24mm, and the souvenir sheet is 114mm by 92mm.

On the souvenir sheet, the complete body of each bird extends through the perforations and onto the selvage between stamps, rather than fading out at the edges of the stamp design on the booklet singles.

Canadian Bank Note printed these stamps by six-color offset lithography. A total of 400,000 booklets and 110,000 souvenir sheets were printed.

Canada Post is offering 10,000 first-day covers of the souvenir sheet for $5.25 each, order number 404051144.

The cachet shows enlargements of an osprey, loon, and gyrfalcon, and the first-day cancel depicts a bird’s nest with three eggs from above.

The cancellation site is Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, on the northern arm of Great Slave Lake, a popular jumping-off spot for High Arctic birdwatchers.

Nondenominated picture postal cards paying the international rate for any destination in the world are being issued in sets of five.

Each card displays an image of the entire bird from which the stamp designs were taken. The postal cards (Canada Post order number 262468) are priced at $12.50 per set.

All the preceding items are available on the Canada Post website and by mail order from Canada Post Customer Service, Box 90022, 2701 Riverside Drive, Ottawa, ON K1V 1J8 Canada; or by telephone from the U.S. or Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.

Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Post’s agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.