Is Your State Bird a Stupid State Bird? What It Should Be Instead.

The state of the universe.
May 17 2013 5:06 PM

What the State Birds Should Be

Seven cardinals but no hawks? Come on!

Hermit Thrush.
The hermit thrush

Courtesy of Seabamirum/Flickr

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.

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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

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

Gyrfalcon.
Gyrfalcon

Courtesy of ahisgett/Flickr

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

Red-Faced Warbler.
Red-faced warbler

Courtesy of Wildreturn/Flickr

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

California Condor.
California condor

Courtesy of a2gk3/Flickr

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?

Brown-capped Rosy-finch.
Brown-capped rosy-finch

Courtesy of Dominic Sherony/Flickr

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

Connecticut Warbler.
Connecticut warbler

Courtesy of Matt Tillett/Flickr

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

Red Knot.
Red knot

Courtesy of JAC6.FLICKR/Flickr

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

American Flamingo.
American flamingo

Courtesy of DigitalFauxtographer/Flickr

10. Georgia. Official state bird: brown thrasher

I’ve always liked this. Way to go, Georgia.

What it should be: brown thrasher

Brown Thrasher.
Brown thrasher

Courtesy of ibm4381/Flickr

11. Hawaii. Official state bird: nene

No, not this Nene. Not this one either. This one.

What it should be: nene (the goose)

Nene.
Nene

Courtesy of JAC6.FLICKR/Flickr

12. Idaho. Official state bird: mountain bluebird

Deal.

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

See above.

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

Dickcissel
Dickcissel

Courtesy of Kat+Sam/Flickr

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

Western Meadowlark
Western meadowlark

Courtesy of steveberardi/Flickr

17. Kentucky. Official state bird: northern cardinal

Urge to kill: rising.

What it should be: Kentucky warbler

Kentucky Warbler
Kentucky warbler

Courtesy of Don R. Faulkner

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

Brown Pelicans
Brown pelicans

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

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

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped chickadee

Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images

20. Maryland. Official state bird: Baltimore oriole

YOU WIN.

What it should be: Baltimore oriole

Baltimore Oriole
Baltimore oriole

Courtesy of Larry Page/Flickr

21. Massachusetts. Official state bird: black-capped chickadee

Screw you, Taxachusetts. Maine wins.

What it should be: piping plover

Piping Plover
Piping plover

Courtesy of Lamar Gore/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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

25. Missouri. Official state bird: eastern bluebird

Boring, but I don’t know what else would be better.

What it should be: eastern bluebird

26. Montana. Official state bird: western meadowlark

No.

What it should be: McCown’s longspur

27. Nebraska. Official state bird: western meadowlark

NO.

What it should be: sandhill crane

28. Nevada. Official state bird: mountain bluebird

Look, Nevada, you’re insane. You should have a bird that also represents what a zany, mixed-up world this is. How about a fat Asian grouse that was introduced by hunters in the 1960s and has managed to hang on in some remote Nevadan mountains?

What it should be: Himalayan snowcock

29. New Hampshire. Official state bird: purple finch

OK, just go with it.

What it should be: purple finch

30. New Jersey. Official state bird: eastern goldfinch

Are you serious? Another outdated name? Come on, Jersey. You’ve got a fine birding reputation, and you’re better than this.

What it should be: seaside sparrow

31. New Mexico. Official state bird: greater roadrunner

Deal!

What it should be: greater roadrunner

32. New York. Official state bird: eastern bluebird

Another win for the powerful bluebird Lobby.

What it should be: cerulean warbler

33. North Carolina. Official state bird: northern cardinal

More like bore-thern cardinal.

What it should be: Carolina chickadee

34. North Dakota. Official state bird: western meadowlark

Was western meadowlark the official state bird of the entire Louisiana Purchase and they just kept if after becoming states?

What it should be: chestnut-collared longspur

35. Ohio. Official state bird: northern cardinal

Uuggghhhhhhh the wooorrrssssttt.

What it should be: indigo bunting

36. Oklahoma. Official state bird: scissor-tailed flycatcher

Hell yeah! Nailed it!

What it should be: scissor-tailed flycatcher

37. Oregon. Official state bird: western meadowlark

Stop it with the meadowlarks. I’m resisting the temptation for Oregon junco here, in favor of something that would never happen.

What it should be: northern spotted owl

38. Pennsylvania. Official state bird: ruffed grouse

I like it.

What it should be: ruffed grouse

39. Rhode Island. Official state bird: Rhode Island red chicken

Hahaha, Rhode Island you so crazy.

What it should be: bee hummingbird, the smallest bird in the world. Ha ha just kidding! Rhode Island red chicken

40. South Carolina. Official state bird: Carolina wren

OK. Thank you.

What it should be: Carolina wren

41. South Dakota. Official state bird: ring-necked pheasant

An exotic. You’re kidding me. Is your state meal General Tso’s chicken? Is your state hat the sombrero? Is your state anthem the Canadian national anthem?

What it should be: sharp-tailed grouse

42. Tennessee. Official state bird: northern mockingbird

What is it with mockingbirds? I do not understand. They are garbage birds that eat dumpster trash! Is that what you want to identify with, Tennessee?

What it should be: Tennessee warbler

43. Texas. Official state bird: northern mockingbird

Sometimes—after a nice full day, perhaps spent in the company of loved ones—one can forget that the world is a cold, uncaring place full of death and sadness. Thanks, Texas, the birdiest state in the entire country, for reminding me that this civilization we’ve built and work our fingers to the bone trying to perfect is as meaningless as a sand castle in the tide.

What it should be: any other bird in the state other than northern mockingbird. Roseate spoonbill? Golden-cheeked warbler? Swainson’s hawk? Aplomado falcon? Anything.

Roseate spoonbill.
Roseate spoonbill

Courtesy of ~Shanth/Flickr

44. Utah. Official state bird: California gull

At first I was mad: “You named your official state bird after a bird named for a different state?” But then I learned that California gulls ate a bunch of locusts back in the early Mormon days and saved a bunch of lives, so I’m OK with this. State birds with stories are good state birds.

What it should be: California gull

45. Vermont. Official state bird: hermit thrush

Fine. Thank you for restoring sanity, Vermont.

What it should be: hermit thrush

Hermit Thrush.
Hermit thrush

Courtesy of Seabamirum/Flickr

46. Virginia. Official state bird: northern cardinal

Just when I think I’m out, they suck me right back in. Shut up, Virginia.

What it should be: barred owl

Barred Owl.
Barred owl

Courtesy of jocelynsart/Flickr

47. Washington. Official state bird: willow goldfinch

What is going on? Nobody can get the goldfinch right!

What it should be: glaucous-winged gull

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens).
Glaucous-winged gull

Courtesy of Kain Kalju/Flickr

48. West Virginia. Official state bird: northern cardinal

West Virginia I am so mad at your right now I could explode.

What it should be: Swainson’s warbler

Swainson's Warbler.
Swainson's warbler.

Courtesy of Don Faulkner/Flickr

49. Wisconsin. Official state bird: American robin

I just … I can’t.

What it should be: golden-winged warbler

Golden-winged Warbler.
Golden-winged warbler

Courtesy of Andy Reago/Flickr

50. Wyoming. Official state bird: western meadowlark

I hate you.

What it should be: greater sage-grouse

A greater sage-grouse male struts at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate.
A greater sage-grouse male struts at a lek (dancing or mating ground) near Bridgeport, Calif., to attract a mate.

Courtesy of Jeannie Stafford/USFWS/Flickr

Final Thoughts: This has been the most depressing post I have ever put together. Three robins but no blue jay? Seven cardinals but no owls or hawks? Five filthy mockingbirds? This is what we pay taxes for, folks.

This article originally appeared in the Birdist.

Nicholas Lund lives and birds in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Birdist. Follow him on Twitter.

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