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What is a State Bird?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A state bird is a bird that is chosen to represent a particular state within the United States of America as a symbol. All 50 states have a state bird, with the last one being chosen by Arizona in 1973. This bird is typically chosen to be symbolic of a state for a number of different reasons, and is usually a bird that is either common or unique to a particular region. Many states also have state flowers, state plants, and state mottos, as well as unique state flags.

The state bird for a state is typically chosen by the legislature of that state, representatives of the people elected to draft and enact laws for the citizens of that state. This began in 1926 when the state of Kentucky chose the northern cardinal as its official state bird; this selection was then recodified in 1942. Several more states followed suit in 1927, including Alabama, Florida, and Texas.

Not all state birds are unique, in fact unique state birds are quite uncommon with seven states sharing the northern cardinal, six states sharing the western meadowlark, and five states all using the northern mockingbird as official state bird. New Mexico is the only state to use the greater roadrunner, while Arizona also has a unique state bird with the cactus wren. Some states also have both state birds and state game birds, typically when both types of birds are quite common or important to the citizens of a state.

For example, the state of Alabama has the northern flicker, or yellowhammer woodpecker, as the state bird, but also has the wild turkey as a state game bird. Other states, such as Delaware, have game birds that are also state birds. The Delaware state bird is the blue hen chicken, a symbol that stems from the American Revolutionary War when soldiers from Delaware were described as being as tenacious as fighting roosters.

States might have multiple state birds for other reasons as well; such as Mississippi, which has both the Northern mockingbird as an official bird, and the wood duck as the official state water fowl. State birds are not necessarily unchanging, however, and popular sentiment can change and revise the statutes that indicate the official bird for a state. For example, South Carolina had the northern mockingbird from 1939 to 1948. This was changed in 1948, however, to the Carolina wren and in 1976 the wild turkey was also added as the state wild game bird.

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Discussion Comments
By StarJo — On Feb 24, 2012

I live in Delaware, and I have always heard stories about the state bird being involved in cock-fights a long time ago. The blue roosters were significantly more violent than regular roosters, and they won almost every fight.

I have even heard that these blue roosters got to travel with the soldiers, because in their downtime, they would participate in cock-fights. I can't imagine the soldiers wanting to see even more violence than they already had to deal with, but maybe their mindset was permanently altered by war.

That's one story about where the blue hen chicken got its reputation. It also explains why the soldiers were linked with them.

By wavy58 — On Feb 23, 2012

Arizona's state bird can be vicious. I doubt that it could do much damage to a human, but I have heard of cactus wrens attacking squirrels and wounding them with their beaks.

Sometimes, they will gang up on another animal, and the combined assault makes them able to inflict more harm. If I were a small animal, I would be afraid to run into a cactus wren. I guess it pays to be mean in the desert, where only a few can survive.

They are downright mean, because they will either peck or take away another bird's eggs. I don't quite know what their reason is for doing this, but it sounds like they just love mischief.

By shell4life — On Feb 23, 2012

@bagley79 – The state bird of Maine, the black-capped chickadee, will actually store food to use in the snowy months. I'm not sure if all chickadees do this, but I find it neat that this one has that ability.

It will stuff seeds in cracked tree bark and down inside of hollow branches before the snow arrives. I have seen these birds going back to their “pantries” and getting the food when the ground is covered in a blanket of white and there is none to be found.

I have heard that they can remember where they put their food for as long as half a year! That is quite a feat, considering that they usually put it in several locations. I don't know how they tell all the trees apart, much less the spots on them where they stuffed their food!

By orangey03 — On Feb 22, 2012

@SarahSon – I'm from Mississippi, and our state bird is also the mockingbird. This bird is so happy to imitate every sound it hears that I have been able to teach it a few new songs!

I got the idea while listening to a mockingbird and whistling for my dog. I noticed that the bird's chirps sounded a lot like whistles, so I decided to try and see if I could get it to mimic me.

I did a short whistle that dipped in the middle and rose high at the end. I repeated it over and over, until finally, the mockingbird attempted it. His version wasn't quite perfect, so I kept whistling for him until he got it right.

I could even hear him get quiet and listen carefully. He was studying the sound in order to imitate it correctly.

By SarahSon — On Feb 22, 2012

I have lived in the same state all of my life, and the Tennessee state bird is the mockingbird. If you look at a state bird list, you will see this bird as the official bird of many states.

There are a lot of people around here who find this bird to be very loud and annoying. A lot of times they nest close to homes and this is when they can really be bothersome.

It can be interesting to listen to them as they imitate the sound of other birds. I have even watched and heard them mimic other sounds that are not birds.

If you have ever heard a bird call at night, it could possibly be the mockingbird. This is one other reason people consider them loud and obnoxious. Most birds are quiet once the sun goes down, but you can hear a mockingbird just about any time of the day or night.

We also have a state game bird which is the quail. There doesn't seem to be as many quail as there used to be. My husband likes to go hunting, and he said the population seems to be down from what it was several years ago.

By andee — On Feb 22, 2012
When we were in Hawaii I was fascinated by some geese I saw, and learned they were the Hawaii state bird.

We rented a car on the different islands so we could go exploring on our own. We were able to get off the beaten path and stay away from a lot of the busy tourist areas where I saw several of these geese, which are called nenes, apparently.

When I asked about it, I was told it was the rarest goose in the world and they have done a lot to try and protect this goose.

If we had stayed in the busy parts of the islands, I probably would have never seen or heard about these fascinating geese.

By bagley79 — On Feb 21, 2012

I have always found the particular facts about a state to be a good way to know what is common for that particular area.

This was the first I heard about some states having a state game bird. Since most of these have been added at a later date, I wonder if more states will adopt a state game bird.

Our state bird is the chickadee. There is one other state that also has this bird as their official bird.

The chickadees are in a large part of the United States, but do well in northern climates because they lower their body temperature at night to conserve energy.

These birds can also become quite tame. I have some neighbors who feed them all year long, and in the winter when food is scarce, they will practically eat out of their hand.

I don't have the patience to try this myself, but it is quite fascinating to watch.

By John57 — On Feb 21, 2012

Many 5th graders in our state have to complete a state history report. I had to do this when I was in 5th grade, and our kids also did the same thing.

This was a great way for them to learn a lot about our state including the state bird facts.

The Eastern goldfinch is our state bird. There are a lot of finches in our state, and they stay around all year long.

If you have feeders up, you will no shortage of them at your feeders. The male ones are easy to spot because they are bright yellow. The female finches are not as brightly colored.

It is nice to have a state bird that is around all year long. There are a lot of birds that we only see during the summer months so I can understand why the goldfinch is our official bird.

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