Until a couple of days ago, I thought that state or provincial birds were cute, folksy things that appealed mainly to primary school students and people who worked in tourism offices. I thought that – until I heard about the Florida State Bird election controversy. Maybe you are tired of hearing about yet another Florida election scandal, but this one is important, too.
I don’t have all of the details: dates, numbers, etc, but here’s what I’ve heard. The two front-runners in a Florida State Bird election a few years ago were Northern Mockingbird and Florida Scrub Jay. It was looking as though the jay might pull off an upset . . . until some developers suddenly threw their support – and campaign dollars – behind the mockingbird. I don’t know if the campaigning was as dirty as during political elections, but in the final polls the Northern Mockingbird was declared the winner.
I am going to go out on a limb (although not as far out as a jay or mocker would go) and say that Northern Mockingbirds don’t give a squawk about whether or not they are the Florida State Bird or not. The Mockingbird is already the state bird of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida.
Here are some reasons why I believe that Florida Scrub Jays would make an excellent State Bird:
1) The Florida Scrub Jay lives only in Florida and is the state’s only endemic bird (Northern Mockingbirds are widespread across North America and Mexico and have been seen in every state except Hawaii and every province and territory in Canada except Nunavut).
2) The Florida Scrub Jay is beautiful: a misty, cerulean blue with a pale gray back.
3) I am the first to admit that a Northern Mockingbird is a splendid singer, but have you ever heard the Florida Scrub-Jay’s raucous, rising kreeeesh?
4) Most importantly, Floridians would make sure that Florida Scrub Jays survive into the future. They have been on Audubon’s 10 Most Endangered Birds list, and their numbers are still declining. They can’t afford to lose any more habitat, and what is remaining needs to be managed properly.
This may seem like a tongue-in-cheek blog, but I’m serious. I’ve heard that there is already a small (but hopefully determined) group of people who hope to rally support for another vote for Florida State Bird. I hope that anyone who reads this blog can find a way to help such as writing a letter to an appropriate politician or contacting your local Audubon or other conservation-minded organization. Good luck!