Unless this is your first time visiting my blog (and then, hello and how do you do), one may realize that bird watching and photography are some favorite pastimes of mine. While creating the birding section of my blog and the various bird pages, I’ve come curious on the topic of ‘state’ birds.
Every state has an official ‘state’ bird and after seeing the list of birds, I decided to create a list of ‘fifty-one’ odd facts about the state birds. In addition, I also found about a dozen odd stats about them as well.
So to start off, here are the odd statistics on the ‘state’ birds:
- There are over a thousand different species of birds within the United States, but only twenty-seven species, plus two types of chickens were chosen as state birds.
- Ten states have both a state bird, plus another ‘official’ bird (game, waterfowl, raptor, or symbol of peace)
- The state birds of nine states (plus the District of Columbia) are only present in the state (or area) from mid-spring to early/mid fall (breeding season)
- Seven states have the northern cardinal as their state bird
- Six states have the mockingbird as their state bird
- Six states have the western meadowlark as their state bird–though it is a summer resident for three of those states
- Two states have a chicken as their state bird
- Three states have the goldfinch as their state bird
- Three states have the American robin as their state bird
- Two states have the eastern bluebird as their state bird
- Two states have the mountain bluebird as their state bird (though it is a summer resident in one of those states.
- Two states have the black-capped chickadee for their state bird
What I found ‘weird’ was that high frequency of the northern cardinal (14% of the states), mockingbird (12% of the states), and western meadowlark (12% of the states) being chosen for state birds. These three choices by nineteen states account for 38% of the ‘state birds’.
So, what are some weird/odd or amazing facts about the various state (or national) birds?
- The national bird (the Bald Eagle) is no longer considered endangered or threatened (it is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act). Though it is still protected at the state level in many states.
2. The District of Columbia has a ‘state bird’–the wood thrush.
3. The rough translation for the wood thrush’s scientific name (Hylochila mustelina) is ‘weasel-colored woodland thrush’
4. Male wood thrushes do more of the feeding of the chicks than the female; this allows her to start a second brood.
5. The first national wildlife refuge (Florida’s Pelican Island) was created in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the brown pelican.
6. Besides being the state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican is also the national bird of Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
7. Northern flickers actually hunt for their food on the ground, with ants being a staple in their diet.
8. In addition to nesting in trees (like all other woodpeckers), northern flickers have also been know to use abandoned burros of belted kingfishers or bank swallows.
9. The willow ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world where the male regularly helps raise the young.
10. The willow ptarmigan is also a master of camouflage; they can be snowy white in the winter and a mix of reds and browns in the summer.
11. The cactus wren gets its liquids from the juicy insects and fruits it eats; therefore rarely relying on water.
12. Young California quail gain their gut microbiome by pecking at the feces of the adults.
13. California quail broods mix after hatching and all parents help care for the young
14. A male northern mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs during his lifetime.
15. While it is called the northern mockingbird, it is actually absent from many of the northern states.
16. Lark buntings are able to survive periods of drought by taking moisture from grasshoppers and other insects
17. Lark buntings are endemic sparrows to the grasslands and shrub steppes of North America.
18. The entire American robin population ‘turns over’ on average every six years, though many may live longer than that.
19. Did you know that robins can become intoxicated when they exclusively eat honeysuckle berries?
20. Brown thrashers have been known to imitate the songs of Chuck-will’s-widows, wood thrushes, and northern flickers
21. Brown thrashers are the largest common host for the ‘parasitic’ brown-headed cowbirds. Though they can tell the difference between their eggs and the cowbird eggs, and usually reject the cowbird eggs that had been laid in the nest.
22. The Nene evolved from the Canada goose, which probably arrived on the Hawaiian Islands roughly 500,000 years ago.
23. The Nene is the sixth-most endangered waterfowl species in the world.
24. There are Hawaiian geese (Nene) living in the Slimbridge Wetland Wildlife Reserve near Gloucestershire, England
25. Mountain bluebirds can hunt for insects either in flight or from perches
26. A male mountain bluebird with a high-quality nesting site is more likely to attract a mate than a more ‘attractive’ male with a low-quality nesting site.
27. Female northern cardinals are one of the few female songbirds that sing
28. Cardinals don’t molt into duller colors–the mature males stay bright red year-round.
29. Goldfinches are strict vegetarians, and the offspring of other birds who parasitize their nests (such as the brown-headed cowbirds) rarely survive more than a few days on the all-seed diet.
30. Meriweather Lewis, noted in 1805 the differences between the eastern and western meadowlarks
31. Male western meadowlarks usually have two mates at the same time, as the females do all the incubating, brooding, and most of the feeding of the young
32. Black-capped chickadees hide their food to eat later, placing individual items in different spots
33. Black-capped chickadees adapt to changes in their flocks and the environment every fall, by allowing neurons with ‘old information’ to die and replacing them with new neurons
34. Baltimore orioles are known to breed/hybridize extensively with Bullock’s orioles where their ranges overlap within the Great Plains
35. When migrating the common loon has been clocked at speeds greater than 70mph
36. Common loons are only present in a few states during the summer. Most of the US is actually within their migratory routes to the coasts, where they will spend the winters (and the young will stay for two years before heading back north).
37. Eastern bluebirds will typically have more than one brood per year
38. Purple finches have lost territory in the eastern US to the house finch
39. Roadrunners are able to eat venomous lizards, scorpions, and rattlesnakes.
40. Roadrunners may also be seen walking around with a snake protruding from its bill, swallowing a little at a time as the snake is digested.
41. The scissor-tailed flycatcher tends to wander on their way to and from their winter grounds in Central America. They have been spotted as far north and west as British Columbia, and as far north and east as Nova Scotia.
42. The scissor-tailed flycatcher as the second longest tail for members of the kingbird family. The fork-tailed flycatcher has the longest tail.
43. The popularity of the ruffed grouse as a game bird led to some of the earliest game management efforts in North America back in 1708.
44. The overall population of the ruffed grouse goes through an eight-to-eleven year cycle that is in correlation to the snowshoe hare population.
45. It is only the male Carolina wren that sings
46. Ring-necked pheasants will sometime parasitize the nests of other birds (such as the ruffed grouse or the greater-prairie chicken)
47. Ring-necked pheasants practice ‘harem-defense polygyny’ where one male will keep other males away from a group of females during the breeding season.
48. The California gull became the state bird of Utah in 1848, after they started feasting on the katydids that had been devastating the crops of the settlers.
49. Hermit thrushes are likely to nest in trees west of the Rocky Mountains, but on the ground east of the Rocky Mountains
50. Male hermit thrushes will collect the food for the nest, giving it to the female who will then feed the nestlings.
51. Not really odd facts, but here are the two pictures of the chickens that are also state birds:
So there are the ‘fifty-one’ odd facts on state birds (yes, I know that the last fact are just pictures). So far I’ve managed to get a picture of thirteen or fourteen of the birds–I’m leaning more towards fourteen, since I’m pretty positive that is a purple finch I got a picture of this winter.
A photography goal–get a picture of the other state birds, though I’m not sure if I’m also going to include the chickens in that or not. You might have noticed that I didn’t mention every state in terms of their state bird–I thought it would be more fun to test everyone’s knowledge.
So question–do you know the state bird of your state?