Different birds have been officially selected by different state legislatures to be a state symbol. The practice of choosing a bird as a state emblem started in 1927 with Texas and Maine being among the first to pick a bird. The birds chosen are not unique to one particular state with multiple states sharing the same bird symbol. The most famous bird is the northern cardinal which was selected by seven states. Mississippi is unique in that it has picked the wood duck as its official waterfowl alongside the northern mockingbird as the official bird.
US State Birds
The Northern Cardinal
One of the most common state bird in the US is the northern cardinal with a habitat range that cuts across most of the Eastern US. The northern cardinal is easy to spot due to its unique crest. Female northern cardinals have a grey crest while the males have black. It mainly feeds on grains and fruits and insects on occasion. Keeping the bird as a pet is illegal in all 50 states of the US. The northern cardinal is a popular choice for team mascot with over ten teams both professional and college level using it as a mascot. In 1929, Illinois became the first of seven states to choose the northern cardinal as its official emblem while the final state to select it was Virginia in 1950. Other states that use the bird as their official emblem include Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
The Northern Mockingbird
The northern mockingbird is the most widespread species of mockingbirds in the US. The bird's habitat extends from the southern part of the US to the central regions. It is closely related to the endangered Socorro mockingbird. The most distinct feature of the bird is its intelligence as it has proven that it can identify individual people. It has a varied diet consisting of fruits and insects. The bird is extremely popular as it appears in paintings, the titles of books and songs, as well as being chosen as the official bird of five states. Texas and Florida were the first states to choose the bird as their official emblem in 1927. Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee have also chosen to use it as their official emblem. The norther mockingbird was also the state bird of South Carolina from 1939-1948, however, in 1948, South Carolina designed the Carolina wren as the state bird.
The Western Meadowlark
The western meadowlark is a bird common in the western and central parts of the US. The diet mainly consists of insects, berries, and seeds they acquire by foraging. Western meadowlarks have a flute-like song which is one of the easiest calls to identify in the animal kingdom. Six states have chosen to use the western meadowlark as their official bird with Wyoming and Oregon being the first in 1927, followed by North Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Montana.
State Game Birds
In addition to having official state birds, some states have chosen to have official game birds. Most states have chosen a game bird since they do not allow hunting of their official birds except California, Alaska, and South Dakota. Wild turkeys and bobwhite quails are the most popular game birds with each being selected in three states.