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Official State Bird
aka: Mockingbird

On March 5, 1929, Governor Harvey Parnell and the Forty-seventh General Assembly adopted House Concurrent Resolution Number 22 proclaiming: “The mockingbird is declared and everywhere recognized as the state bird of the State of Arkansas.” In Arkansas, the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, in a campaign directed by Mrs. W. A. Utley, was responsible for promoting the legislation naming the mockingbird as the official state bird. The proposed bill was first perceived as a joke but passed following speeches proclaiming the mockingbird’s value to farmers. Four other states—Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas—have also designated the mockingbird as their official state bird, making it the third most popular choice, eclipsed only by the first-place cardinal and second-place western meadowlark.

The mockingbird, one of the best-recognized birds in the South, does not migrate. The adult is between nine and eleven inches in length and weighs almost two ounces, with a wingspan of thirteen to fifteen inches. It has a slender bill, a light gray coat, whitish undersides and patches on wings, a long tail that is a darker gray with white outer feathers, and black legs. Its primary diet is insects, berries, and seeds.

The mockingbird can sing for hours on end; unmated males sing at night. Moreover, these birds can mimic other bird species as well as dogs, sirens, and even squeaky gates—thus their scientific name, Mimus polyglottos, or “mimic of many tongues.” A mockingbird may have an inventory of up to thirty songs. Scientists believe that females are attracted to males with the most sounds.

For additional information:
James, Douglas A., and Joseph C. Neal. Arkansas Birds: Their Distribution and Abundance. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1986.

Shearer, Benjamin F., and Barbara Smith Shearer. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide. 3rd ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Tippetts, Katherine B. “Birds of the States: How, When and Why They Were Chosen As Official Emblems.” Nature 19 (April 1932): 231.

Ware, David. It’s Official! The Real Story behind Arkansas’s State Symbols. Little Rock: Butler Center Books, 2015.

John Spurgeon
Bella Vista, Arkansas

Related Butler Center Lesson Plans:
N is for Natural State (Grades 3-4); Symbols of Our State (Grades 1-4)

Last Updated 11/2/2015

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