In some states, school contests, conservation group campaigns, or media promotions have helped choose state birds, and the birds may be selected because they are familiar and widespread, making them easy for all residents to see and enjoy.
These symbolic birds are often showcased on flags, emblems, coins, or seals, and engender state pride and recognition. While some states share feathered ambassadors – the popular northern cardinal is honored in seven states – each state bird is a fine representative for its state and a wonderful symbol to learn about.
Note: Years indicate when each bird was officially adopted in that state.
Northern Flicker (1927)
Nicknamed the “yellowhammer”, this yellow-shafted subspecies of the northern flicker is Alabama's official state bird, not to be confused with the red-shafted northern flicker, which is found in the west, not in Alabama.
Willow Ptarmigan (1955)
These birds stay in Alaska year-round, and their pure white winter plumage is perfect camouflage during long, harsh winters. Alaska gets snow nine months of the year!
Cactus Wren (1931)
The cactus wren is the largest wren in North America and is fun to attract to yards with native plants, ground feeders, and low bird baths.
Northern Mockingbird (1929). Also honored by Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas
Northern mockingbirds are fantastic mimics that can impersonate other birds as well as barking dogs, ringing phones, squeaking gates, and other noises.
California Quail (1931)
The California quail is one of the only officially designated state bird that actually has the state's full name as part of its own name (the Rhode Island Red Chicken also fits this description).
Lark Bunting (1931)
Lark buntings are the only birds in the sparrow family where males change into dramatically different breeding colors in spring and summer but are much more camouflaged in winter.
American Robin (1943). Also honored by Michigan, Wisconsin
These thrushes stay year-round where food is available, especially fruit trees or suet offered on tray feeders. American robins also enjoy heated bird baths in winter.
Blue Hen Chicken (1939)
The blue hen chicken is one of only two domestic poultry breeds honored as state birds, along with the Rhode Island red chicken.
Northern Mockingbird (1927). Also honored by Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas
Though designated by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3 in 1927, there have been several attempts over the years to change Florida's state bird to a species not shared with other states.
Brown Thrasher (1935)
An amazing mimic with a beautiful voice, the brown thrasher has one of the largest vocal repertoires of any bird in the country with up to 1,100 sounds. Individual birds often learn different songs and calls.
Also called the Hawaiian goose, the nene is the world's rarest goose and is believed to have evolved from the Canada goose. The nene became Hawaii's state bird two years before Hawaii became an official state.
Mountain Bluebird (1931) Also honored by Nevada
Mountain bluebirds are the largest and bluest of North America's three bluebird species. Only two bluebird species are recognized as state birds – the western bluebird does not have the honor.
Northern Cardinal (1929). Also honored by Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia The northern cardinal is the most popular state bird, honored in seven states as an official symbol. These birds are found year-round throughout all of Illinois, including in urban areas.
Northern Cardinal (1933). Also honored by Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia Male and female northern cardinals look very different, with males overall bright red and females a soft tan color with subtle red accents. Both genders have the jaunty crest and black mask.
American Goldfinch (1933). Also honored by New Jersey, Washington American goldfinches, also called wild canaries, are widespread and are found year-round in Iowa. These birds are one of the few species to be strict vegetarians.
Western Meadowlark (1937). Also honored by Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Wyoming Kansas schoolchildren first voted for the western meadowlark as the state bird in 1925, but it wasn't until 1937 that the state legislature made the designation official.
Northern Cardinal (1926). Also honored by Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia Kentucky was the very first state to designate an official state bird, and the northern cardinal is also the official beloved mascot, Louie, of the University of Louisville.
Brown Pelican (1958) Declared endangered in 1970 because of pesticides, brown pelicans have an amazing comeback story and brown pelicans were completely removed from the federal endangered species list in 2009.
Black-Capped Chickadee (1927). Also honored by Massachusetts Black-capped chickadees are one of the few hardy species to stay in Maine year-round. Offering sunflower seeds, suet, and roost boxes can easily attract these birds to winter backyards.
Baltimore Oriole (1947) The Baltimore oriole was chosen as Maryland's state bird because its orange and black coloration is similar to the emblem colors of George Calvert, the British colonist who founded Maryland.
Black-Capped Chickadee (1941). Also honored by Maine The Massachusetts Legislature chose the black-capped chickadee as the official state bird because these perky little birds are widespread in the state year-round, easily recognized and enjoyed by all.
American Robin (1931). Also honored by Connecticut, Wisconsin American robins won a statewide contest by the Michigan Audubon society to be designated as the state's official bird and are found statewide even in urban areas.
Common Loon (1961) While only found in the state in the summer, more common loons nest in Minnesota than in any other state except Alaska. The common loon is also the official provincial bird of Ontario, Canada.
Northern Mockingbird (1944). Also honored by Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Texas Both the state legislature and the Women's Federated Clubs agreed that the northern mockingbird, with its bold personality and statewide range, is the ideal state bird for Mississippi.
Eastern Bluebird (1927). Also honored by New York
Common in parks, gardens, and bird-friendly yards, the eastern bluebird is a symbol of happiness that Missouri is happy to honor as its state bird.
Western Meadowlark (1931). Also honored by Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Wyoming
The western meadowlark was first noted by famed explorer Meriwether Lewis during his and William Clark's famed expedition, and is widespread west of the Mississippi River, including in Montana.
Western Meadowlark (1929). Also honored by Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Wyoming
Three votes were taken to choose Nebraska's state bird – from the Ornithologists Union of Nebraska, the Nebraska Federation of Women's Clubs, and the state's schoolchildren – and the western meadowlark won them all.
Mountain Bluebird (1967). Also honored by Idaho
Though the Nevada Federation of Women's Clubs voted for the mountain bluebird in 1930 and the state's schools elected the bird in 1931, it wasn't officially approved by the state legislature until 1967.
Purple Finch (1957)
The New Hampshire hen, a chicken very similar to the Rhode Island red, was the original state bird of New Hampshire before it was ousted by the purple finch in 1957.
American Goldfinch (1935). Also honored by Iowa, Washington
The American goldfinch is found year-round in the Garden State, where it takes advantage of urban and suburban gardens to forage for seeds. At feeders, it loves Nyjer seed® and sunflower seeds.
Greater Roadrunner (1949)
Indigenous peoples of New Mexico believed the greater roadrunner had supernatural powers, and early settlers believed these birds could guide lost travelers. Today, greater roadrunners can be found alongside many of the state's 150,000 miles of roads.
Eastern Bluebird (1970). Also honored by Missouri
New York was the last state to officially designate a state bird, though the eastern bluebird was first put forth as New York's feathered representative in 1928, but without official confirmation for 42 years.
Northern Cardinal (1943). Also honored by Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia
The northern cardinal was not North Carolina's first official state bird. That honor was given to the Carolina chickadee in 1933, but was repealed after a few days because of the undignified nickname, “tomtit.”
Western Meadowlark (1947). Also honored by Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Wyoming
Well known for its vocal prowess, widespread range, bright yellow underparts, and bold markings, the western meadowlark is a popular summer bird in North Dakota.
Northern Cardinal (1933). Also honored by Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
When Ohio was first settled in the 1700s and became a state in 1803, northern cardinals were only found in the southern part of the state. Today, thanks to more feeders and changing habitats, these bright red birds are found statewide.
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (1951)
The scissor-tailed flycatcher is amazingly distinctive with its deeply forked tail, and its insectivorous diet makes it important to the state's farmers. The bird is featured prominently on the Oklahoma state quarter, issued in 2008.
Western Meadowlark (1927). Also honored by Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming
While most states use legislative acts to designate state birds, Oregon adopted the western meadowlark by a proclamation of the state's governor, then Isaac L. Patterson.
Ruffed Grouse (1931)
Found year-round in woodlands throughout the Keystone State, the ruffed grouse has a strutting mating display that many birders hope to see when they visit Pennsylvania.
Rhode Island Red Chicken (1954)
The Rhode Island Red is a domestic chicken breed developed in the state in 1854 for egg production. One Rhode Island Red hen can produce 200-300 eggs per year!
Carolina Wren (1948)
The Carolina wren was South Carolina's first unofficial state bird in the 1930s, but the northern mockingbird was officially elected in 1939. Because the mockingbird was shared with other states, however, the act designating it was repealed in favor of the Carolina wren.
Ring-Necked Pheasant (1943)
The ring-necked pheasant is not native to South Dakota but was introduced to the state in 1908. Its influence has become so significant that it has earned the honor as the state's official bird.
Northern Mockingbird (1933). Also honored by Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Texas
In a state well known for its vibrant music scene from Nashville to Memphis, it is perfect that the northern mockingbird – which can learn up to 200 songs – is the official state bird.
Northern Mockingbird (1927). Also honored by Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee
The bold personality of the northern mockingbird, with its extensive song repertoire and aggressive posturing, goes perfectly with the adage that “everything's bigger in Texas.”
California Gull (1955)
The California gull was chosen as Utah's state bird because a flock of gulls destroyed locusts that threatened Mormon pioneers' crops in 1848, the year after pioneers arrived in the state.
Hermit Thrush (1941)
Vermont legislators initially resisted choosing the hermit thrush because it migrates away from Vermont in winter. Because the bird is found throughout the state in the spring and summer, however, it still secured the honor.
Northern Cardinal (1950). Also honored by Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia
Another name for the northern cardinal is the “Virginia nightingale,” making it the ideal choice as Virginia's state bird, though Virginia was the last state to give the cardinal this honor.
American Goldfinch (1951). Also honored by Iowa, New Jersey
The western meadowlark was actually the first choice for Washington's state bird but was rejected because other states had already selected it. Today, the American goldfinch is also honored in Iowa and New Jersey.
Northern Cardinal (1949). Also honored by Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia
Though West Virginia became a state in 1863, long after its neighbor Virginia (which became a state in 1788), it selected the northern cardinal as its state bird the year before Virginia did so.
American Robin (1949). Also honored by Connecticut, Michigan
Wisconsin held surveys of schoolchildren in 1926 and 1927 to decide on a state bird, and while the American robin was popular, it wasn't officially designated until 1949.
Western Meadowlark (1927). Also honored by Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon
The western meadowlark is a bold and popular bird, which is proven by its selection as the state bird of six different states, second only to the northern cardinal.