Alabama is a US state located in the southeastern part of the country. It covers an area of 52,419 sq mi and has a population of 4,887,871, ranking 30th in the country by area and 24th in terms of population. Alabama has multiple nicknames, such as "The Yellowhammer State", "The Heart of Dixie", and "The Cotton State." In addition to its state flag, Alabama has numerous official symbols, which include a state flower (camellia), state insect (Monarch butterfly), state tree (Southern longleaf pine), and state fruit (blackberry). Alabama also has an official state bird, the northern flicker, as well as a state game bird, the eastern wild turkey.
Official State Bird
The northern flicker, popularly known as the yellowhammer, is the state bird of Alabama. Designated as the state bird in 1927, the northern flicker is a species of the woodpecker family, which makes Alabama the only state with a woodpecker as its official bird. Despite not gaining official status until 1927, the northern flicker has been a symbol of the state since the US Civil War, and gave Alabama its nickname, "The Yellowhammer State."
Primarily native to North America, there are 9 subspecies of the northern flicker, which vary slightly by location. Northern flickers in Alabama inhabit open woodlands, parks, residential yards, and the edges of fields and forests. Unlike most woodpeckers, the yellowhammer forages on the ground for food, searching for ants, termites, grasshoppers, spiders, caterpillars, berries, nuts, and seeds. They do not hammer into trees like most woodpeckers and therefore seek hollow or rotten tree stumps to create nests. The northern flicker is vulnerable to birds of prey, especially hawks and owls, and is threatened by the use of pesticides that control insects in parks and lawns.
Official State Game Bird
The eastern wild turkey is the official game bird of Alabama. It was designated the official game bird in 1980, 53 years after the northern flicker was declared the state bird. The turkey is also the state bird of Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Massachusetts.
Eastern Wild Turkey
The eastern wild turkey is the largest of the wild turkeys, as well as the largest game bird in North America, and Alabama is among the states with the largest per-acre population of eastern wild turkeys in the country. Both male and female turkeys can grow up to 4 feet tall, but males are slightly heavier.
In the early 1990s, habitat destruction and commercial harvesting decimated the population of the eastern wild turkey, but intervention by wildlife and conservation organizations have resulted in a dramatic recovery. In fact, about 6.5 million wild turkeys roam 49 US states today. In addition to conservation and protection efforts, the turkey's recovery is also attributed to the bird's resilient, prolific, and unique nature.