I drove over a bridge from Maryland into Virginia today and on the big “Welcome to Virginia” sign was an image of the state bird, the northern cardinal—with a yellow bill. I should have scoffed, but it hardly registered. Everyone knows that state birds are a big joke. There are a million cardinals, a scattering of robins, and just a general lack of thought put into the whole thing.
States should have to put more thought into their state bird than I put into picking my socks in the morning. “Ugh, state bird? I dunno, what're the guys next to us doing? Cardinal? OK, let's do that too. Yeah put it on all the signs. Nah, no time to research the bill color, let's just go.” It’s the official state bird! Well, since all these jackanape states are too busy passing laws requiring everyone to own guns or whatever to consider what their state bird should be, I guess I’ll have to do it.
1. Alabama. Official state bird: yellowhammer
Right out of the gate with this thing. Yellowhammer? C’mon. I Asked Jeeves and it told me that Yellowhammer is some backwoods name for a yellow-shafted flicker. The origin story dates to the Civil War, when some Alabama troops wore yellow-trimmed uniforms. Sorry, but that’s dumb, mostly because it’s just a coincidence and has nothing to do with the actual bird. If you want a woodpecker, go for something with a little more cachet, something that’s at least a full species.
What it should be: red-cockaded woodpecker
2. Alaska. Official state bird: willow ptarmigan
Willow Ptarmigans are the dumbest-sounding birds on Earth, sorry. They sound like rejected Star Wars aliens, angrily standing outside the Mos Eisley Cantina because their IDs were rejected. Why go with these dopes, Alaska, when you’re the best state to see the most awesome falcon on Earth?
What it should be: gyrfalcon
3. Arizona. Official state bird: cactus wren
Cactus Wren is like the only boring bird in the entire state. I can’t believe it.
What it should be: red-faced warbler
4. Arkansas. Official state bird: northern mockingbird
Christ. What makes this even less funny is that there are like eight other states with mockingbird as their official bird. I’m convinced that the guy whose job it was to report to the state’s legislature on what the official bird should be forgot until the day it was due and he was in line for a breakfast sandwich at Burger King. In a panic he walked outside and selected the first bird he could find, a dirty mockingbird singing its stupid head off on top of a dumpster.
What it should be: painted bunting
5. California. Official state bird: California quail
... Or perhaps the largest, most radical bird on the continent?
What it should be: California condor
6. Colorado. Official state bird: lark bunting
I’m actually OK with this. A nice choice. But why not go with one of the birds that are (or are pretty much) endemic in your state?
7. Connecticut. Official state bird: American robin
Look, this isn’t even that hard. American robin is American, not special to Connecticut at all. Is there perhaps another choice? One that inspires some more local pride?
What it should be: Connecticut warbler
8. Delaware. Official state bird: blue hen chicken
You know what? I’m not so mad about this. Whatever, it seems to have some connection to you, even though “blue chicken” plugged into a thesaurus means “sad wuss.”
What it should be: red knot
9. Florida. Official state bird: northern mockingbird
I am finishing this post the next day because I had to go buy a new computer after I threw my last one out the window when I read that Florida’s state bird was the northern mockingbird. I cannot think of a more pathetic choice for one of the most bird-rich states in the nation. What’s their state beverage, a half-glass of warm tap water?
What it should be: American flamingo
10. Georgia. Official state bird: brown thrasher
I’ve always liked this. Way to go, Georgia.
What it should be: brown thrasher
11. Hawaii. Official state bird: nene
What it should be: nene (the goose)
12. Idaho. Official state bird: mountain bluebird
What it should be: mountain bluebird
13. Illinois. Official state bird: northern cardinal
You know how parents say that thing, “if everybody can’t have it, then nobody can have it”? Well, I’m doing that for cardinal. No one gets the cardinal. Screw cardinals.
What it should be: greater prairie-chicken
14. Indiana. Official state bird: northern cardinal
What it should be: bobolink
15. Iowa. Official state bird: eastern goldfinch
Eastern goldfinch? That’s not even a thing.
What it should be: dickcissel
16. Kansas. Official state bird: western meadowlark
OK, but I’m only allowing one. You hear me, West? Only one western meadowlark.
What it should be: western meadowlark
17. Kentucky. Official state bird: northern cardinal
Urge to kill: rising.
What it should be: Kentucky warbler
18. Louisiana. Official state bird: brown pelican
Yes. The best fit of all. If I had beads I’d throw them to you, Louisiana. Note: I could go with Louisiana waterthrush here, but no one thinks of Louisiana when they think of Louisiana waterthrush, so, whatever.
What it should be: brown pelican
19. Maine. Official state bird: black-capped chickadee
Ah, my beloved home state. I couldn’t imagine any other bird.
What it should be: black-capped chickadee
20. Maryland. Official state bird: Baltimore oriole
What it should be: Baltimore oriole
21. Massachusetts. Official state bird: black-capped chickadee
Screw you, Taxachusetts. Maine wins.
What it should be: piping plover
22. Michigan. Official state bird: American robin
The most endangered bird in the nation lives ONLY (pretty much) in your state! Don’t you want tourists and pride and crap? Uggghhhh.
What it should be: Kirtland’s warbler
23. Minnesota. Official state bird: common loon
All right, that works.
What it should be: common loon
24. Mississippi. Official state bird: northern mockingbird
Oh, for God's sake. There’s an awesome bird named after you! NAMED AFTER YOU!
What it should be: Mississippi kite
TODAY IN SLATE
The Irritating Confidante
John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.
My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s
Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band
Can it be again?
The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee
The Simpsons World App Is Finally Here
I feel like a kid in some kind of store.
Driving in Circles
The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.