Hope flutters again that a Florida native will be designated state bird

Tina Polsky has joined Samuel Killebrew's effort to honor the Florida scrub jay.

Hope has taken wing again that the Florida scrub jay will get its deserved perch as the state bird — even if last year’s effort didn’t take off.

Following up on last year’s effort, Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky Wednesday filed a bill (SB 78) similar to the one (HB 17) Republican Rep. Samuel Killebrew filed last week — and last year. So, pols on both sides of the aisle are in on the effort to knock the northern mockingbird from its high-flying status that four other states have also bestowed on it.

“There’s just no reason for this other bird, that’s the bird of four other states to be Florida’s bird,” Polsky of Boca Raton told Florida Politics.

Florida designated the mimus polyglottos its state bird along with Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. But the Florida scrub jay — also known as Alphelocoma coerulescens — is native to Florida, both bills contend. Obviously, the northern mockingbird is not as picky when it comes to where to set down a nest.

A third bill last year also took aim at chasing off the northern mockingbird from the state’s archives. Former St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes filed a bill to replace the mockingbird with some other — any other — avian.

The mockingbird has been Florida’s state bird since the Legislature proclaimed it so in 1927. However, lawmakers have floated the flamingo, osprey and roseate spoonbill as possible replacements. But it seems that the mockingbird has some powerful backers — none of the three bills even received a committee hearing last year.

Former NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer has proven herself one of the mockingbird’s staunchest defenders. She reprised last year’s op-ed in The Palm Beach Post and City & State on Monday, defending the northern mockingbird’s honored place.

Unlike the Florida scrub jay, which few people will ever see due to its habitat in scrub oaks, the mockingbird is well-known, easily recognized, and a gifted singer with a wide repertoire of songs. It’s also self-reliant enough to never need “protected status” or designation as a “threatened species” as you-know-what, Hammer wrote.

Making the Florida scrub jay the state bird, an effort that started in 1999, “was a scam for extreme environmentalists to get tax dollars and designate areas of Central Florida as ‘protected,’” Hammer wrote in Monday’s piece. “The effort was actually to stop people who owned property in those areas from building or doing anything on the property they owned.”

Polsky said she brought the bill to Killebrew ahead of last Session after a constituent, high-schooler Anya Cane, presented Polsky with her pitch for why the scrub jay deserves to be the state bird and a petition to make it happen. Together, Cane and Polsky penned pro-scrub jay side of the op-ed that also featured Hammer.

“The state bird is an official symbol that shows off the natural treasures and highlights the personality of our state,” Cane and Polsky wrote. “The Florida Scrub-Jay is a bird we can be proud of that represents all Floridians and the enchanting nature of Florida.”

If Killebrew and Polsky are successful, the scrub jay will be immortalized in the Capitol Rotunda — or at least until the wind of change leads the Legislature to scrub the jay with a new bird.


Renzo Downey of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].

One comment

  • M. Hammer

    December 16, 2022 at 7:38 am

    Liberals want to replace the state bird with the food begging, welfare mentality scrub jay. You can help beat back these attacks on the mockingbird.

    Google “Operation Mockingbird” for more information.

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