State Birds, Mosquitos and the Goodyear Blimp
Growing up in New Jersey I remember having to do a report on the state bird, the Eastern Goldfinch, or as older family members called it, the Wild Canary.
It is a beautiful bird that is simple to spot because of its yellow color and comfort in being near human activity. It is also easy to spot in flight because they fly in a bouncy, undulating pattern.
Its habitat is widespread across the United States. So it is not surprising that such an attractive bird is the state bird of two other states, Washington and Iowa.
This is not the only repeat bird, for example, the Northern mockingbird is the Official State Bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. It was also the State Bird of South Carolina for almost a decade.
That is one popular bird.
This got me wondering, when did we even get state birds?
Official State Bird selection started in the 1920s after a push by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The GFWC would also lead the push to establish Official State Flowers.
Kentucky was the first to choose a State Bird when they chose the Northern Cardinal in 1926. They would soon be joined by six other states that also chose the Northern Cardinal.
It would take decades for all 50 states to finally choose their state bird. The last one to do so was Arizona, which chose the Cactus wren in 1973. They are the only state to have chosen that bird.
Some states also choose other official birds. Most notable among them are the Official Game Birds. That list is dominated by the Wild Turkey, which has been selected to hold that honor by several states.
This is not surprising since the turkey is such an important part of the United States’ Thanksgiving tradition.
As I mentioned earlier, when I asked older members of my family the name of New Jersey’s state bird, they called it the Wild Canary. They would only give me that answer after making a joke about the “real” state bird of New Jersey.
Now I know what you are thinking,
My state likes to joke that the Official State Bird is the mosquito.
Yes, people in your state do like to make that joke, but you are also not alone. As it turns out nearly every state in the United States likes to make that joke.
Just do a quick Google Image Search and on the first page, you will see merchandise and signage from nearly a dozen states that make this claim. In just three pages of results, nearly half the country jumps on the mosquito/state bird joke.
This of course makes sense, because mosquitos are nearly everywhere.
Mosquitoes are cosmopolitan (world-wide): they are in every land region except Antarctica and a few islands with polar or subpolar climates. Iceland is such an island, being essentially free of mosquitoes.
Strangely enough, despite all these states making jokes about the mosquito, not a single one actually chose them as their Official State Insect.
Although, as of now, only 41 of the 50 states have selected their insect. So hope is still alive for the mosquito.
Countries and States are not the only places that have “official things.” A good many cities also have gotten in on the act.
A real standout for me is Redondo Beach and its Official City Bird.
The Goodyear Blimp
In the early eighties, Redondo Beach, CA was looking for a way to promote the city before the 1984 Olympics, Sam Eagle’s Cartoon, and The Magnificent Marble Machine. I guess they happened to look up and spot the Goodyear Blimp.
They reached out to Goodyear to get their okay and in 1983 adopted the blimp as its official city bird. The move made headlines across the United States, but sadly did not appear to bring any Olympic events to the city.
Redondo Beach attempted to be included again when the Olympics are set to return in 2028, but was passed over for other locations.
This time around, they did not appear to have pulled out their official city bird. They might want to give it a shot. Maybe this planning committee has more blimp fans?