The Florida State Bird

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Photo: Kelly Dean

The Florida State Bird

By Kelly Dean

The Florida state bird is the U-turn.

Okay, I’m kidding.

I make jokes about Florida drivers but I’m just having fun. There isn’t much one can do about the number of U-turns you must do in Florida to simply get around (and it’s wearing on your tires), but I digress. I’m here to write about the real state bird of Florida, the northern mockingbird — a bird that took a while for me to appreciate.

Yes, it seems odd to have a bird called the “northern” mockingbird as the state bird of Florida, considering we are the southern-most continental state in the country. All things are relative, including geography, so I guess Hawaii considers us northern and that makes it logical. But in Hawaii, the state bird is the nene, and northern nene would sound silly.

Anyway, in the past, I wasn’t much of a fan of the mockingbird. When I had some decent hearing, their endless bird calls used to drive me crazy; it was like having a neighbor whose dog barks every time you go out into the back yard. The mockingbird thinks its annoying calls will scare you away. Well, it does, I would leave. Those calls consisted of a string of piercing bird noises, one after the other, nonstop. It drove me nuts.

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Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public Domain

But when I moved to Florida, I learned to appreciate the little bird that is quite plain when perched, but quite beautiful when flying. It has this black and white stripe coloration on its outstretched wings and maneuvers with agility, better than about any other backyard bird.

They are fearless too. I often see them taking on blue jays, a rather mean bird as well, but generally a bit larger than the mockingbird. The mockingbird, likely defending its nest, was pretty aggressive. I once saw a mockingbird attack a small snake. It was literally picking it of the ground and dropping it at intervals, all while flying, all while the snake was trying to get  away. This was all happening at high-speed as well. Amazing.

On another occasion, I saw two mockingbirds arguing over territory. They were both perched on the ground, craning their necks, trying to look taller than the other one. It looked like something out of National Geographic, except it was in my backyard. Eventually they had a brief tussle, but it was bird wrestling at its best.

So why have I spent so much time writing about the mockingbird being the state bird of Florida? Well, it’s because I think the mockingbird’s attitude is why it’s the state bird, not its call, or pretty colors, or stateliness. I think the mockingbird represents the tenacity you must have to live in the Sunshine State.

So if you decide to visit or relocate in Florida, be sure you practice your snake charming first.

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