By Jesse Robitaille
The final five-stamp set from the three-year “Birds of Canada” series was released on Aug. 20.
The Canadian goose (Branta canadensis); whooping crane (Grus americana); chickadee (Poecile atricapillus); snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus); and Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) are among the five birds featured in this year’s set.
A 10-stamp booklet and two five-stamp souvenir sheets – one with the logo of the International Ornithological Congress, a quadrennial event being held in Vancouver, B.C. this Aug. 19-26 – will be issued. An official first-day cover will also be cancelled in Vancouver. This issue was printed by Canadian Bank Note.
Together with the other 10 Permanent stamps issued in 2017 and 2016, the Birds of Canada series highlights avian species living across the 13 provinces and territories.
BIRDS OF CANADA
Designer Mike Savage, of Signals Design in Vancouver, struck a balance between new and old elements for last year’s sequel issue, which featured the great gray owl; the gyrfalcon; the osprey; the common loon; and the blue jay.
Illustrator Keith Martin, who worked on the entire Birds of Canada issue, used a similar style throughout the three-year series. To portray the unique forms of his feathered subjects, he immersed himself in photos and videos to understand the mechanics of each species in flight.
“You ultimately have to understand the physicality of these creatures,” he said.
With support from avian expert David Gray, he incorporated the complexities of each bird’s markings through a number of iterations.
“I didn’t want the birds to appear passive. Takeoffs and landings were my opportunities,” said Martin, of his decision to picture the birds in their most energetic moments.
Variations in colour and background freshened the look of last year’s issue while many design aspects echoed those of the series’ first stamps, which featured the Atlantic puffin; the great horned owl; the common raven; the rock ptarmigan; and the sharp-tailed grouse.
“Before a single image was finalized, Keith and I worked together to plan each bird in the 15-stamp series,” said designer Kosta Tsetsekas, who also worked with Martin and Savage on the series. “So, naturally, we’re eager to see them take flight.”
PREVIOUS BIRD STAMPS
About two decades ago, Canada began issuing other “Birds of Canada” stamps, including in 1996 (Scott #1591-1593); in 1997 (SC #1631-1634); in 1998 (SC #1710-1713); in 1999 (SC #1770-1777); in 2000 (SC #1839-1846); and in 2001 (SC #1886-1893). An earlier set of four “Birds of Canada” stamps (SC #1095-1098) was issued in 1986, when Ottawa hosted that year’s International Ornithological Congress.
Other bird-related issues include a three-year series issued from 2003-05 entitled “John James Audubon’s Birds” (SC #1979-1983, #2036-2040 and #2095-2099).
Also of interest to topical collectors are a number of avian-related one-offs issued since 1946, when the first Canadian stamp featuring a bird – an airmail stamp, no less (SC #C9) – was released.
Nearly half a century earlier, however, another bird stamp was issued in what was then the colony of Newfoundland. The 12-cent stamp (Scott #69) features the willow ptarmigan.
The American Topical Association lists more than 4,000 bird stamps worldwide.