Authorities Consider Removing Mockingbird as Florida State Bird – WFTV

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ORLANDO, Fla .– (AP) – After nearly a century on its high perch, the Northern Mockingbird may be singing its last tunes as a Florida State Bird.

An effort is taking off to replace the high-profile musical mockingbird with a bird more identifiable as distinctly Floridian.

“Part of what we are working to do is point out that Florida is home to these incredible species and we should recognize the bird that most represents Florida,” said State Senator Jeff Brandes, a Republican from Saint -Petersburg whose legislation would deprive the mockingbird of his Title. “For me it’s a fun conversation to have.”

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Suggestions for a new state bird are all over the map, but four main candidates have emerged: the Florida scrub jay, the flamingo, the osprey, and the roseate spoonbill.

The white ibis, dovetail kite and wood stork were also mentioned. Some joke, it should be the construction crane.

The gray-and-white mockingbird, celebrated in literature and music, has been Florida’s state bird since 1927, when the state was much more agricultural and less populated on the coasts.

It may not be as representative of modern, bustling Florida today – and four other states call it the State Bird as well.

But he has supporters, including Marion Hammer, the Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and executive director of the Unified Sportsmen of Florida. She wrote in a recent opinion piece that the mockingbird deserves our continued love.

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The Mockingbird can sing up to 200 different melodies and imitate artificial sounds like car alarms. Its Latin name translates as “lily of the valley in several languages”.

“The Mockingbird is a well-established, independent, and prolific bird that does not need government protection or our taxes to survive,” Hammer wrote. “It can be seen, watched, studied and enjoyed by children and adults on any day in all parts of Florida.”

The same cannot be said of the Florida scrub jay, described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as the only species of bird found only in Florida.

The problem is, there are only about 4,000 concentrated in central Florida and the federal government classifies them as threatened.

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Brandes has not suggested replacing the Mockingbird in his legislation. But separate bills in the state House and Senate would elevate the blue-headed jay to honorary office.

One of these bills is sponsored by Senator Tina Polsky, a Democrat from Boca Raton. She argued in a recent editorial that the scrub jay “represents the hardworking and family nature of our residents.”

“Friendly, cooperative, family-oriented, bold, curious, talented builder, protective, shares the housework, stays close to home – does this sound like someone you would want to represent your community? Polsky wrote.

Not to be outdone, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted in early October to designate the osprey to represent the state.

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The commission did the same in 2009, after a survey of 77,000 students resulted in the victory of the large raptor commonly seen building large nests or perching on light poles near trees. water places.

“It does not necessarily mean that this is the way things are going to be, if you know the Legislature,” said committee chairman Rodney Barreto. “But at least we can put a marker.”

The American flamingo is another story. Often linked to Florida in popular culture – think state lottery ticket logos, plastic lawn ornaments, or the opening credits of “Miami Vice” – for decades he was considered an intruder. foreigner.

That changed in recent years when researchers proved that flamingos were native to the Sunshine State, but had been mercilessly hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century.

They have since rebounded, supported by captive herds like the one at Hialeah Racecourse, but mostly exist in the Everglades, Florida Keys and around Biscayne Bay in Miami.

The roseate spoonbill, like the flamingo, a large pink wader, is more common in the state and is not listed as endangered. They have unique rounded beaks used for collecting food in shallow water and typically live near shores or on islands.

For Julie Wraithmell, Executive Director of Audubon Florida, any debate about Florida birds is a good thing, especially if it raises awareness of what is needed to protect them, such as habitat conservation, improving the water quality and the restoration of the Everglades.

“Being the bird of the state does not confer any protection on the bird. We’re just excited when people talk about it and recognize how integral birds are to our quality of life in Florida, ”said Wraithmell. “We hope that through these conversations people will want to get more involved.”

The future of the Mockingbird will likely be debated during the 2022 Florida legislative session that begins on January 11.

There is a precedent for states that have changed their honorary state animals, including birds: in 1948, South Carolina changed from mockingbirds to Carolina wren. Brandes said it’s time for Florida to find a new feathered friend as well.

“Why does the Northern Mockingbird make sense in the southernmost state?” ” he said. “I think it’s a bird that doesn’t make sense to Florida.”

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