This story is brought to you by BirdNote, a show that airs daily on public radio stations nationwide.
This may sound strange, but a bird native to China is the official bird of South Dakota. It’s the Ring-necked Pheasant.
Most state birds are native, though—and common, except for Hawaii’s Nene (pronounced NAY-nay), a type of goose that’s endangered.
Some have special stories. In 1848, insects were devastating crops in Utah. A flock of California Gulls descended and devoured the pests, saving the Mormons’ first harvest. A monument in Salt Lake City commemorates this avian intervention.
The “Blue Hen Chicken” is the state bird of Delaware. A captain in one of the first battalions from Delaware in the Revolutionary War raised Blue Hen Chickens for sport. The soldiers from the battalion—and those chickens—were famous for their fierce fighting. The company became known as "Blue Hen's Chickens,” and is still a source of state pride.
The Rhode Island Red’s road to becoming a state bird is a bit more mundane. The “Red,” a hardy and productive chicken, was nominated by the poultry industry.
Other fun facts: The Northern Cardinal reigns in seven states—the most, the Western Meadowlark was picked by six, and the noisy Northern Mockingbird by five.
Find out what species your state has chosen at birdnote.org.
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Ring-necked Pheasant and Nene recorded by G.F. Budney. California Gull recorded by R.C. Stein. Chicken recorded by W.W.H. Gunn. Northern Cardinal recorded by G.A. Keller. Western Meadowlark Gull recorded by W.R. Fish. Northern Mockingbird recorded by W.L. Hershberger.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Written by Ellen Blackstone
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org April 2014/2016 Narrator: Mary McCann