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
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
What it should be: McCown’s longspur
27. Nebraska. Official state bird: western meadowlark
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
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.
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
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
47. Washington. Official state bird: willow goldfinch
What is going on? Nobody can get the goldfinch right!
What it should be: glaucous-winged gull
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
49. Wisconsin. Official state bird: American robin
I just … I can’t.
What it should be: golden-winged warbler
50. Wyoming. Official state bird: western meadowlark
I hate you.
What it should be: greater sage-grouse
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.
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