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The Not So Quiet Rebellion Against Florida's State Bird

Beautiful Lily/Flickr

Birding blogger Nicolas Lund recently argued in an article for Slate magazine that Florida should change its state bird to the Flamingo.

He was actually advocating for several states to change their birds, but he seemed particularly peeved with Florida’s current choice:

"I am finishing this post the next day because I had to go buy a new computer after I threw my last one out the window when I read that Florida’s state bird was the northern mockingbird.

"I cannot think of a more pathetic choice for one of the most bird-rich states in the nation. What’s their state beverage, a half-glass of warm tap water?"

As a matter of fact, Florida shares the northern mockingbird with 4 other states.

So, we took to Twitter and Facebook to ask what all of you thought on the subject. Surprisingly, no one came out to defend the poor northern mockingbird. But, several people liked the idea of officially handing the title to the flamingo, despite it's rarity in the state.

Carolina (@sweetcarolin_a) agreed. "I'VE ALWAYS SAID THIS! Although those in captivity aren't native- imported from the Caribbean, I think that's yet another reason for them to be considered!"

Several others felt that given the diversity of Florida's avian population, we could find something as exotic and unique as the flamingo but also a bit more native.

1.  The white ibis was suggested by Jorge Azze (‏@JorgeAzze) as a possible candidate.

Credit Ellen and Tony/Flickr

2.  The “snowbird” was recommended by Pauly ‏(@PaulyOs) who wrote that the snowbird’s “migration to Florida during the winter months is a sight to be seen.” (Please note there are two types of snowbirds, the greater known Midwestern snow bird and the lesser known Canadian snowbird. )

Credit John Spade/Flickr

3. Given how rare flamingos are in Florida, Roly (@roly76) suggested the ubiquitous “seagull.” (see below) In an earlier post, WLRN reporter Tricia Woolfenden argued that the flamingo was not a good choice as the state bird since the chance of seeing one is so slim. If that’s our metric, then Roly is on to something because who in Florida hasn’t had this experience at some point: 


The video comes from WLRN intern Karelia Arauz who shared this great moment with her son and the gulls.

4. “Shouldn’t it be The Jail Bird?” Jim DeFede (@DeFede) tweeted.

Credit Rennett Stowe/Flickr

5. I wonder if by jail bird he meant the masked booby?

Credit USFWS Pacific/Flickr
According to Cornell University's allaboutbirds.org, it's very rare to see a masked booby in North America. But, they do live on the Dry Tortugas.

6. Allison Hoyle (@allihoyle) thought the great blue heron would be a good candidate.

Credit Revo_1599/Flickr
Great blue herons are wading birds that live in most areas of the U.S. This majestic bird is the largest kind of heron in North America.

7. Several people liked the idea of naming the roseate spoonbill the new state bird. Robert Pike wrote on Facebook that “the rare and dying out roseate spoonbill is a native pink and white water bird.” According to Audubon.org, the spoonbill's population is rebounding but the site lists it as a species of special concern in Florida.

Credit USFWS Headquarters/Flickr
A lot of people mistake the roseate spoonbill for a flamingo because of their coloring. This wading bird uses its weird shaped bill to strain food out of the water.

8. Even though the dodo bird is neither native nor even in existence for that matter, Jeremy D. Fisher (@jadyfish) made this argument for the extinct, flightless fowl: “With a crazy news item daily, or a connection to us for every nutty story, it’s got to be the dodo bird.” Hey, being dead doesn’t stop people from registering to vote in Florida, so why not the dodo bird?

Credit Artist is Roelant Savery, image comes from Wikipedia and Creative Commons

9. Marva Hinton (@MarvaAHinton), one of our WLRN anchors and the tweeter behind @WLRN most mornings suggested the muscovy duck, which is very strange looking and not even remotely native. However, it does leave an impression.

Credit Dave Malkoff/Flickr
Muscovy ducks are not native to Florida, but plenty of them can be found roaming around suburban areas.

10. Personally, I’m (@AriannaProthero) partial to the snail kite for a couple of reasons: Florida is the only state the snail kite lives in, it's endangered in the U.S. because it eats almost nothing but snails, and given our growing problem with giant African land snails, these birds might prove handy to have around.

Credit Cláudio Timm/Flickr
Snail kites (also called the Everglade kite) live in tropical marshlands in Florida and across Latin America. To be clear, their diet consists of mostly apple snails, not giant African land snails.

Have more suggestions for the Florida state bird? Or a defense for the northern mockingbird? Leave them below in the comments section, or tell us on Twitter @WLRN or on Facebook

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