Birds have long been an important part of human culture. Perhaps it is their capacity for flight or their bold or colorful plumage that has prompted many societies to use them as symbols of something lofty or noble.
For millennia, birds have been used in European heraldry (think the eagles of Germany or Poland) or have decorated ancient temples (think Aztec pyramids).
Closer to home, all of the states and territories in our nation have adopted a state bird, many of which are surprisingly characteristic of the region they represent. Beginning in 1927, states began to recognize an official species that would serve as a sort of “mascot,” a source of state pride and solidarity for all citizens.
The state birds of the tristate region are not particularly unique or indicative of the region. Connecticut’s American Robin is shared by two other states, Michigan and Wisconsin, New York’s Eastern Bluebird is shared with Missouri, and New Jersey’s American Goldfinch was also selected by Iowa and Washington.
While many states do share a common bird, those that are unique are usually reflective of the local geography or ecology. Arizona’s Cactus Wren seems right at home in the state’s deserts, while Minnesota’s Common Loon is symbolic of the region’s northern lakes. The Brown Pelican, the official bird of Louisiana, was chosen not only because of its abundance along the Gulf shores but also because of its depiction on the state flag, which itself is drawn from Catholic French symbolism.
Many state birds lend their names to local sports franchises and academic institutions, such as Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles of Maryland and the University of Delaware’s Blue Hen Chicken.
Despite the somewhat ordinary state birds of the tristate area, many of those in other parts of the nation are colorful examples of regional flavor that are as diverse and wonderful as this nation’s people.