The Strange, Scandalous Fight Over Florida's State Bird
Many Floridians want a new avian emblem, but developers, shadow interests, and even the NRA are hellbent on standing in their way.
There’s a certain amount of chaos that goes into the designation of state symbols. Some of them, like California choosing the California poppy as its state flower, make total sense. Others, like at least 20 states choosing milk as their state beverage (yes, that’s apparently a thing!), are more like, uhhhh, yeah sure. In the world of ceremonial gestures executed on a large scale with relatively little impact and a deep need to be inoffensive, you’re bound to get a few head-scratchers now and then. And there are more than a few head-scratchers when it comes to the specific realm of state birds.
If you want to go deep, I wrote about this at length in Discourse Blog’s definitive ranking of all the U.S. state birds, but one of the most baffling choices I discovered in my research was that several birds have been claimed by multiple states: the American robin, the western meadowlark, the northern cardinal, the American goldfinch, the chickadee, the eastern bluebird, the mountain bluebird, and the most boring of all these birds (sorry!), the northern mockingbird. Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas all claim the northern mockingbird as their state symbol. To be clear, it’s a lovely creature and an “iconic” southern bird with some nice windpipes to boot, but it seems a little odd that five states have nabbed it as their ideal avian representative.
I noted this back when I was first researching and writing about state birds lo those many years ago, but didn’t think much of it beyond the government’s remarkable ability to turn everything into an uninspired and perfunctory act. But then a dear reader tipped me off to a story about the northern mockingbird and the state of Florida that completely blew my mind (thank you, Austin!).
In brief, the National Rifle Association and other private interests are largely responsible for keeping the northern mockingbird installed as the Florida state bird:
What??? I know. Let’s back up.
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