Debate over state symbol is for the birdsFebruary 10th, 2011 by Chris Henry
A bill that would change Washington State’s official bird from the willow goldfinch to the great blue heron is clearly a debate that pits the bark-eaters, like me, against the farm boys, like reporter Ed Friedrich.
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The goldfinch’s main natural habitats are weedy fields and floodplains, where plants such as thistles and asters are common. They’re also found in cultivated areas, roadsides, orchards, and backyards.”
Friedrich, who grew up in South Kitsap back in the old days when it was still largely rural, said he used to see them all the time in the fields of his youth.
I live in the woods of South Kitsap and spend a lot of time walking outdoors. I can’t say I’d know a goldfinch if it flew smack into me. They don’t come to our feeders. The heck with them.
The term “bark-eaters,” by the way, originated with former Arts & Entertainment editor Deborah Woolston, who once referred to South Kitsap as “land of the bark-eaters.”
Back on topic, I’d like to know how the heck the goldfinch was chosen as our state bird in the first place.
There’s nothing about the bird that says, “Washington State.” Its range is widespread, again from the Cornell Lab: pretty much all of North America. The map actually shows the gold finch is more often sighted in the Midwest and on the East Coast, than in the west.
The goldfinch is so common, in fact, that it’s also the state bird of Iowa and New Jersey … New Jersey! And, yes, Jim Dunwiddie, I know there’s more to your former home state than the New Jersey Turnpike.
Another thing that’s just wrong about having the goldfinch as our state bird is that, according to the Cornell Lab map (first linked page), the bird pretty much vacates Washington in the summer (I may be misinterpreting the map, and am sure to hear from nitpicking birdwatchers on this).
Now, about the heron. It’s a beautiful bird, plentiful around Puget Sound beaches. It’s graceful in flight and great at stabbing things with its beak, which is, like, a ninja skill of the bird world.
By the way, have you ever noticed how they always name developments after the critters that used to be there before the houses went in? I used to live near Heron Ridge, before it was Heron Ridge. Herons used to roost in the woods, scores of them. It was quite a sight. I’m sure they’ve found other places to roost. I wonder if they still pack together like that. Maybe you birdwatchers out there can help me out.
Now I’m starting to sound like Ed Friedrich talking about road kill.
It seems like the great blue heron better represents the Puget Sound region than any other area of the state. So probably the best thing about this bill is that it’ll give the folks in Western Washington and Eastern Washington something to argue about besides ferries.
Next I think we ought to mess with the state fossil, which is currently the Columbian Mammoth. Any nominations for a replacement?
In fact, lets just redo the entire
list. Have at it:
State folk song:
State marine mammal:
State endemic mammal: