Joe Henderson: Bye-bye mockingbirdie? Jeff Brandes wants that to happen
Image via Colin Hackley.

He wants a new state bird that's a better fit for Florida.

When you walk up the steps to the state Capitol in Tallahassee, you go past sculptures of dolphins frolicking in the appropriately named Dolphin Fountain.

The image says “Florida.”

Step inside the building and you learn all kinds of things, like our official state pie (Key lime), official state soil (Myakka fine sand), and that the Atlantic Sailfish is Florida’s official saltwater fish.

There are many other “official” this and “official” that. They all shout, “FLORIDA!”

Even the official state bird … uh, wait a minute.

The Northern Mockingbird? Northern?

Well, you’ve just had a glimpse into the interesting mind of District 24 Sen. Jeff Brandes, who was struck one day by the notion that the official bird of Florida ought to cause people to identify with, you know, Florida.

“Walking into the Capitol every day and seeing all the symbols just made me realize that the state bird should reflect the state,” he said.

And so he filed SCR 324 to, as the proposal says, rescind “the designation of the mockingbird as the state bird.”

The Florida Department of State notes that our feathered friend earns its keep.

“The mockingbird is helpful to humans because it usually feeds on insects and weed seeds,” DOS said. “In the summer and fall, it also eats ripe berries.”

Anyway, once word got out what was up, social media sprang to life. And, shocking, not everyone agreed with the good Senator. Some chirped that (paraphrasing here) Brandes’ idea to replace the fowl is foul, and he should reorder his life.

Some left voice messages, the contents of which can’t be repeated in Sunday school.

“I can get on Twitter and talk about criminal justice, property insurance or transportation, but nothing generated the reaction that this has,” he said.

“Those are very important, but I talk about those other things, crickets. People have lost their minds over the state bird.”

The bird is well-connected with friends in high places.

“I should mention that the mockingbird is also the state bird of 4 other states,” Brandes tweeted. “The mockingbird apparently had a very good lobbyist.”

Those states are Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas, and there’s not a Northern state among them.

This isn’t the first time lawmakers have tried this maneuver. In 1998, then-Rep. Howard Futch pushed to make the scrub jay, found only in Florida, the state bird.

NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer fought it tooth and flintlock, probably trying to preserve the mockingbird’s Second Amendment rights.

She prevailed.

“The mockingbird has been our state bird for over 90 years … It ain’t broke, so it doesn’t need fixing,” Hammer told the Tallahassee Democrat.

The scrub jay had some friends, too. They filed four more bills to get scrubby its due, but no luck.

Brandes isn’t pushing the scrub jay or any other bird to replace the mockingbird.

“I would be in favor of any bird that makes sense that can be associated with Florida. You could say the ibis, the Osceola turkey, the heron, the osprey. Any of those birds speak to Florida,” he said.

I kind of like the sandhill crane. That says Florida.

The others would be fine too.

Replacing the Northern Mockingbird won’t be easy though. The little flapper has been Florida’s state bird since 1927, and that’s a lot of tradition. And as we’ve seen, the bird has a lot of supporters.

They’re probably snowbirds, and that says “Florida,” too.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Charles

    October 8, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Wow – now this is Pulitzer quality stuff from our very own jackassery king.
    Clearly Henderson has his finger on the pulse of crucial issues.

    • Lorraine

      October 8, 2021 at 10:26 am

      What is wrong with you ?

      You are always so negative – it must be miserable for those around you

      Unless of course, no one listens to you at home & so therefore this is your only venue to vent

      You give me a headache

  • Kris C

    October 10, 2021 at 12:21 am

    Florida doesn’t have a state bird. Check the statutes. The mockingbird was designated by Senate Resolution in 1927. The bill was not passed by the House or signed by the Governor. The mockingbird is the “unofficial” state bird of Florida.

Comments are closed.


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