The national bird of Latvia is the White Wagtail which, it being Latvia, they call  Balta Cielava.*  It was affirmed as the national bird in May of 1960 by the International Council for Bird Preservation while they were meeting in Tokyo.**  I have been unable to determine why or how that organization had anything to do with the national bird of Latvia – one would not think that the Latvian people would need the affirmation of an international group for their national bird!  Nonetheless, that is the only explanation I can find for how Latvia chose its national bird so there you have it.

As to why Latvia would choose Motacilla alba as their national bird, well, it appears that the White Wagtail “is frequently mentioned in Latvian folk songs as a symbol of hard work and diligence.”***  With that kind of publicity it is no wonder that it was chosen to be a national symbol of Latvia!  Wouldn’t you want a bird with such a reputation to represent your country?

If anyone has any further information about how the White Wagtail became the national bird of Latvia please feel free to share, especially if you read Latvian!

*Though the “a” at the end of “Balta” should have a macron (a horizontal line) over it, a symbol that WordPress, our blogging platform, for some reason does not support.

**Per Wikipedia, though they (and seemingly everyone else on the web) somehow managed to get the name of the organization wrong.  The International Council for Bird Preservation was the name of BirdLife International from 1960 until 1994, when the current moniker was adopted.  From 1928 until 1960 it was the International Committee on Bird Preservation.

***Per the Google translation of this French-language site.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.