I’ve become quite the birdwatcher recently, even going so far as to install a new shepherd’s hook in the backyard complete with Finch Feeder and a new dual-use suet/seed feeder.
I first got the bug hard when we hung our initial seed feeder and Hummingbird feeder over the Summer to fantastic results.
Here’s a recent tally (the past two weekends) of the avian visitors to our yard.
- American Robin
- Blue Jay
- Brown Thrasher
- Cedar Waxwing
- Carolina Chickadee
- Carolina Wren
- Downy Woodpecker
- Eastern Bluebird
- Eastern Towhee
- Mourning Doves
- Northern Cardinal
- Northern Mockingbird
- Pine Warbler
- Red-bellied Woodpecker
- Song Sparrow
- Tufted Titmice
We’ve got a great location for all the birds: running water into our pond, ample brush in the form of native rose bushes and azaleas and good tree cover from Pine, Weeping Cherry & Bradford Pears. Among other reasons that I’m grateful for the approach of Spring is the promise of more (in number & species) birds visiting the feeders and trees of our back yard.
One of our most consistent visitors (apart from the Sparrows, Cardinals & Towhees who seem to always be about) is a particularly conspicuous Brown Thrasher. This guy (or gal) can be seen throughout the door – rooting around the leaf litter with the Towhees & Sparrows, up on the seed feeder with the Cardinals or, most often, perched precariously on the suet feeder waiting for a Wren, Warbler or the ornery Mockingbird to make him move.
I’ve considered his presence a teachable moment, annoying my kids (especially Raelyn) by updating them on his every move. A bird that big (easily 10-11 inches) on a 6-inch suet feeder is kind of ridiculous. Plus, it’s a great time to show off the State Bird of Georgia to an eager First-grader. What kind of parent would pass that up?
Unfortunately, while searching for some additional information on the Brown Thrasher I came across a recent, ongoing campaign by Georgia’s Poultry industry to petition the State Legislature to change the State Bird to the Cornish Chicken. They’re calling it “Flip The Birds“. Needless to say, I was unimpressed.
Because I fancy myself a hot-headed do-gooder I quickly found a counter-petition, signed it and then fired off the following email to the person who appears to be in charge of the Cornish Chicken brigade:
To whom it may concern,
I find your site, flipthebirds.com, misinformed and misleading due to the lies it is spreading about the State Bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher.
On the Brown Thrasher page (http://www.flipthebirds.com/brown-thrasher.html) you state two things which are DEMONSTRABLY FALSE:
1) You state that the Brown Thrasher is migratory to Georgia, when in fact it is a year-long, endemic species, occurring in every Georgia county all 12 months of the year: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown_Thrasher/id
2) You state that Garden Club of Georgia petitioned the state to change our State Bird to the Brown Thrasher in 1970. This is MISLEADING AND INACCURATE. According to the Secretary of State’s website (http://www.sos.georgia.gov/archives/state_symbols/state_bird.html):
“On April 6, 1935, the Brown Thrasher was first chosen as the Georgia state bird by official proclamation of the Governor.”
There’s also this story from Nature Magazine (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_was_the_brown_thrasher_chosen_to_be_the_Georgia_statebird):
“In 1928, the school children of Georgia selected the brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) as the state bird. According to Nature Magazine (April, 1932),
“The Campaign was inaugurated by the Fifth District of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and was sponsored by the Atlanta Bird Club and kindred groups.”
Proposals were made to the Legislature and bills to adopt the brown thrasher as the state bird were introduced, but no action was taken.
On April 6, 1935, the brown thrasher was declared the state bird of Georgia by proclamation of Governor Eugene Talmadge”
Additionally, we have this beautiful bit of description from the pen of the most famous birdwatcher and naturalist in U.S. history, John James Audobon, on the Brown Thrasher:
“The Brown or Ferruginous Thrush is the strongest of the genus in the United States, neither the Mocking-bird nor the Robin being able to cope with it. Like the former, it will chase the cat or the dog, and greatly tease the racoon or the fox. It follows the Astur Cooperii and the Goshawk, bidding them defiance, and few snakes come off with success when they attack its nest. It is remarkable also, that, although these birds have frequent and severe conflicts among themselves, yet when the least alarm is given by an individual, a whole party of them instantly rush forth to assist in chasing off the common enemy.”
Does that sound like a “lowly” or “undeserving” bird?
While I can appreciate a dedicated campaign by the poultry industry in this state to affect this kind of change for their own narrow economic reasons, it does not need to resort to the usual crass qualities and attacking tone of political campaigns. It’s also rather silly, since the state bird has more to do with the natural wildlife of a place than it does commerce.
Georgians should be honored to have such a unique bird as the Brown Thrasher as the symbol of their fair state. No other state can lay claim to this bird, while Rhode Island already has the Blue Hen Chicken as their official bird. Do Georgians really want to emulate the residents of Rhode Island?
Georgia doesn’t need a pedestrian, plain chicken as their state bird, they need the Brown Thrasher!
So, yeah, there’s that. A wonderful weekend of bird-watching and cataloging tempered with the harsh realities of a Monday Morning missive fired off from behind the safety of my keyboard.
I hope this week gets better and that you (and I) see more beautiful birds as we make our way towards Spring.