Opinion: The mockingbird has been Florida’s state bird for 95 years – and it doesn’t need to change

Marion P. Hammer says the mockingbird is 'a well established, independent, prolific bird' that should remain the official state bird of Florida.

A mockingbird as seen in Florida.

A mockingbird as seen in Florida. Image by Rick from Pixabay

Once again, a few people are attempting to change the state bird from the mockingbird to the scrub jay. They have no legitimate or justifiable reason for making the change. In the past, they have resorted to emotional arguments and verbal attacks on the mockingbird. 

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Attempts to change the state bird to the scrub jay began in 1999. It was a scam for extreme environmentalists to get tax dollars and designate areas of Central Florida as “protected.” The effort was actually to stop people who owned property in those areas from building or doing anything on the property they owned. The mockingbird was a victim in this scam.

Mockingbirds are remarkable song birds known to sing up to 200 songs and they are known to almost everyone. Plus, they live in and can be seen and heard in every county in Florida every day. On the other hand, scrub jays can’t even sing. They only have an irritating squawk.

The legendary John J. Audubon, for whom the Audubon Society is named, praised mockingbirds for their appearance, their sweet song and devotion to their families. Mockingbirds have exceptional vocal abilities and can mimic songs of other birds, and even the noise of mechanical devices like sports cars and cell phones. 

A scrub jay as seen in Cape Coral, near Seahawk Park. (Photo By: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

As family protectors, mockingbirds chase off intruders who get too close to their nests. Protecting their homes and babies is natural behavior for any responsible parent whether avian or human. The scrub jay is known to steal other birds’ eggs and kill the babies of other birds.

During the 95 years that the mockingbird has been the state bird it has more than earned the recognition. While most Floridians frequently see and are familiar with mockingbirds, most will never see a scrub jay. It is a small sub-species located only in scrub oak patches in a few counties in Central Florida; only a handful of people will ever see one.

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3, designating the mockingbird as the official state bird, was passed in 1927 by the Florida Legislature. The mockingbird is a well established, independent, prolific bird that doesn’t need government protection or our tax dollars to survive. 

For 95 years the mockingbird has represented us well and is a recognized symbol of our great state. There’s an old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That certainly applies in this case. 

Marion P. Hammer is best known as the National Rifle Association's longtime lobbyist in Florida but writes here as "a mother and grandmother who lives in Tallahassee."

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