Wednesday, January 23, 2013

State Birds that are Uninspired

In 1988 the St. Louis Cardinals football team moved to Tempe, Arizona and was henceforth known as the Arizona Cardinals. When professional sports teams move, they sometimes change the name to something more appropriate, but sometimes they keep the same name for the new location. This can lead to odd things like the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, Tennessee Oilers (later changed), Los Angeles Dodgers, or Memphis Grizzlies. Those all make sense from the original location, but not the new ones. This phenomenon is often joked about by people because it doesn’t take much effort to say things like “Los Angeles doesn’t have lakes or trolleys, Tennessee doesn’t have oil and has never had grizzly bears, and Utah doesn’t have any jazz because they are all white!” So when the Cardinals moved to Tempe, you could hear people joke about Arizona Cardinals being strange because there aren’t any cardinals in Arizona.

But that is not true! I lived in Tempe for three years and saw them at my feeder ALL the time. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Wikipedia’s range map!

In fact, Northern Cardinals are pretty much everywhere except the Rocky Mountains and west coast (Paul probably never saw them growing up). Cardinals aren’t special to St. Louis despite it having a baseball team (and formerly football team) named after it, nor are they special to Arizona or anywhere. Why would St. Louis pick such a ubiquitous bird as a mascot? Isn’t the purpose of mascots to be things that is a symbol of your team/school/region, and something that is recognizable and marketable?

If that is the purpose of a mascot, then St. Louis (and later Arizona) picked a really crappy choice in cardinals as their mascot. Not just because they are everywhere and not special to the region, but because everyone seems to have cardinals as their symbol. Oddly, Missouri’s state bird isn’t the cardinal, but is instead the (once ubiquitous) bluebird. But the Cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky…

 …and Virginia…

…and West Virginia…

…and Ohio…

…and North Carolina…

…and Indiana…

…AND Illinois.

Wow, the Northern Cardinal state bird covers a contiguous area of the United States that covers 55 million people who all consider it to be their own, special symbol of their home state.

But cardinals are not alone in their ubiquitous as state mascots. American Robins also are the mascot of three states, because when you think ‘robin’ you always think of these states, right?

Robins as a state symbol is even stranger than cardinals, though, because robins really ARE everywhere, being in most states year round and in all the other states (except Hawaii) for at least half the year.

Northern Mockingbirds don’t cover nearly as many states, but they cover all the south and almost all the east and are really conspicuous, so anyone that lives near mockingbirds knows they are around. Hence, they are common and well known; the type of animal that would make a bad mascot because it doesn’t mean anything specific to your area. That doesn’t stop five states from thinking that they uniquely symbolize them.

Of course I am going to have to make fun of the state bird from Paul’s home state! The Western Meadowlark sucks as a state bird. Now, I hesitate talking about this because I haven’t seen one yet (I like to write about birds only after I’ve added them), but we are talking about state birds so I’ll do it anyway.

Just like the other birds I’ve mentioned, the western meadowlark is EVERYWHERE in the west. If you are west of the Mississippi, you have them. Heck, there are places east of the river that have them. Perhaps they are a symbol of The West, but that doesn’t mean that pretty much every state has to have them as their symbol.

What’s up with Idaho? Get with the program!

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