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What Is the State Bird of Iowa?

Amanda Holland
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Eastern Goldfinch is the state bird of Iowa. Even though it’s technically a subspecies of the American Goldfinch, many sources use the names interchangeably. This small bird is generally between 4 inches and 5 inches long and has a wingspan of about 8 inches. It mostly consumes seeds, so it’s a frequent visitor to residential bird feeders. Eastern Goldfinches are typically monogamous, and pairs produce a single brood each year.

Fun Facts About the American Goldfinch

  • One of its vocalizations sounds like “po-ta-to-chip.”
  • The scientific name for the American Goldfinch is Spinus tristis. In sources that identify the Eastern Goldfinch as a subspecies, its designation is Spinus tristis tristis.
  • Some favorite foods include sunflower, elm, and thistle seeds as well as beet greens.
  • Deciduous trees and shrubs are common nesting spots, and most nests are less than 30 feet off the grounds.
  • The Eastern Goldfinch is also the state bird of New Jersey.
  • The Willow Goldfinch (another subspecies) is the state bird of Washington.
  • Though it’s been nearly a century since the Iowa Legislature adopted its state bird, Iowa does not have an official state animal.

What Does the Eastern Goldfinch Look Like?

Eastern Goldfinches display sexual dimorphism, meaning the male and female birds look different. The contrast is especially clear during the summer mating season. During the fall, both sexes are mostly olive-brown, with a light yellow bib and face and a buff-colored underside. The male also has yellow patches on his shoulders. Throughout the year, the female has dark brown tail feathers and matching bars on her wings. The male displays black bars on his wings and black tail feathers.

In the summer, the female’s plumage lightens to a yellowish-brown, and she displays a yellow bib. The male Eastern Goldfinch gains brightly colored plumage every year after the spring molt. During the summer, he has a vivid yellow body with a striking black cap. The white feathers under his short tail are visible during flight. The male’s bright summer plumage is designed to attract a mate.

Why Is the Eastern Goldfinch the Iowa State Bird?

Also called a wild canary, the Easten Goldfinch was adopted as the official state bird by the Iowa Legislature in 1933. At an annual meeting in Des Moines, the Iowa Ornithological Union voted to recommend the Eastern Goldfinch to the Iowa General Assembly as its choice for the official state bird. Sources indicate that it was chosen because it’s commonly found throughout Iowa.

What Is the State Symbol of Iowa?

The Great Seal of the State of Iowa was originally created in 1847. The seal features several symbols, including the Mississippi River, an eagle carrying a banner of the state’s motto, a field full of various farming implements, and a citizen soldier holding an American flag. The Iowa motto is “Our liberties we prize, and our rights we will maintain.“

Along with the seal, the Hawkeye State has several other state emblems.

  • The Iowa flag has vertical bars of blue, white, and red. The white center bar shows an eagle bearing a blue and white banner of the state motto over “Iowa” in red text. As the design wasn’t adopted until 1921, the eagle on the flag is likely derived from the one on the state seal, which is based on the national bird of the U.S.
  • The Iowa state flower is the wild rose, and the state tree is the oak.
  • The official song of Iowa is, appropriately, The Song of Iowa, which was written by S.H.M. Byers in 1867 and adopted in 1911.

Iowa also has an official state rock: the geode.

What Is Iowa Famous For?

Along with its yellow and black state bird, Iowa is known for many other things:

  • It has more pigs than any other state.
  • The plane crash that killed Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson happened near Clear Lake, Iowa. It was “the day the music died.”
  • The state is the top producer of corn in the U.S.
  • It’s the birthplace of sliced bread, Pinterest, Eskimo Pie ice cream bars, and the Red Delicious apple.

If you’re an Iowa native, you’ve probably seen hundreds of Eastern Goldfinches in local meadows and backyards. This cheery little bird is prevalent throughout the state, and sometimes stays there even during the winter.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Amanda Holland
By Amanda Holland
With career experiences that have used both math and grammar, Amanda Holland is a freelance writer and America Explained contributor. She spent several years as a signals analyst for the Defense Department, creating and editing reports for the intelligence community. After having two children, Amanda transitioned to freelance writing, allowing her to balance her passion for crafting content with her family life. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, and playing video games.
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Amanda Holland
Amanda Holland
With career experiences that have used both math and grammar, Amanda Holland is a freelance writer and America Explained...
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