Choosing A Stately Bird

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Forty-three of our States and the District of Columbia have selected a bird to represent them as an emblem. In the majority of the States this popularly-chosen avian representative has been officially recognized and in the other states it is planned to have this done at early legislative sessions. The mere fact that these bird emblems have been chosen is not important so far as the emblem itself is concerned. What is significant is that which led up to the selection; the discussion, study, and thought that it required: the very real educational service that it performed. And the result is that affectionate interest has been thus aroused in all birds and their protection.
When the first query went out, “Have you a State Bird?” it was virtually a new thought. Aside from Louisiana, Maryland and Utah, where custom had already established official birds, and Kansas, where a successful early campaign was held, inquiry revealed that there were no state birds. So campaigns were started, taking most effective form in drives by women’s clubs, Audubon societies and Nature groups in cooperation with the schools to “get out the vote.” Quickly these campaigns grew into crusades. Many candidates were entered. Their qualifications were discussed from all angles. Inquiry brought out whether the birds nominated were valuable economically; whether they were truly representative of the region; what their distinctive characteristics were; whether they were attractive songsters, and many other details. An awakened interest in birds and their study and a greater interest in Nature Study were quickly noted. Balloting was active and the votes cast were well-considered decisions. Beyond all question the value of selecting an official State bird was established. Naturally in the various campaigns many interesting things developed. It is, therefore, of both value and interest now to review these various campaigns in connection with the reproduction here of these official birds in all their color and beauty.
For instance, in 1927, at the request of the Ladies’ Memorial Association, the Legislature of Alabama adopted the Flicker, or “yellow hammer”, as the official State bird. The members of this organization urged the choice because the Alabama soldiers in the Confederate Army were known as “Yellow Hammers”, and the yellow lining of the bird’s wings and tail recall the uniform colors of the Alabama cavalry. Or, when the General Federation of Women’s Clubs accepted the invitation to hold its 1931 Biennial Council in Phoenix, Arizona, Mrs. D. I. Craig, Chairman of Conservation for the State was urged to have a State bird selected before the meeting was held. She wasted no time and a campaign was launched throughout the State. Ballots were cast for various candidates but when these were counted the Cactus Wren was out in front in a run-away contest. A bill making the selection official was immediately presented to the Legislature and passed and signed by the Governor in March, 1931.