Rhode Island State Bird
Adoption of the Rhode Island State Bird
The search for a bird to represent the State of Rhode Island began in 1931 when the Rhode Island Federated Women's Clubs, supported by the Audubon Society, sponsored a contest that included the votes of school children, boy scouts, campfire girls, the grangers, golf clubs, the four-high clubs and other patriotic organizations.
Six candidates were offered in this contest; the bobwhite quail; the osprey; the flicker; the tree swallow; the song sparrow and the catbird. Not one of the contestants was a chicken!
The top vote-getter was the bobwhite quail that, according to Alice A. Griffin, Chairman for the Department of Education at the time, "was chosen because he is widely distributed throughout the state, his plumage and song are attractive, he is a permanent resident and he is the farmer's friend."
The bobwhite quail and the second-place osprey were proposed to the Legislature as appropriate representatives of the State of Rhode Island. However, neither of these fine candidates was adopted by the Legislature and Rhode Island was left without an official state bird.
Twenty years later, in 1954, another statewide contest was sponsored. The Audubon Society, the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs and the Providence Journal offered five candidates this time. Two previous winners, the bobwhite and the osprey, were in the running along with three new contestants; the towhee, the ruby-throated hummingbird and a breed of chicken called the "Rhode Island Red".
That it was even one of the contestants indicated that the Rhode Island Red chicken had many things going for it. First, the breed was developed in Little Compton, Rhode Island in 1854 specifically for the production of eggs. Second...The RI Department of Agriculture and Conservation, the entire poultry industry and the American Legion were backing and promoting the Rhode Island Red for commercial reasons.
The Rhode Island Red had developed quite a reputation in the state. First advertised in poultry journals in 1986, the chicken was rather famous. In 1925, a chicken plaque was placed on a cornerstone in Adamsville, Rhode Island. It reads
On top of all of this notoriety, the Rhode Island Red Centennial Committee was celebrating the breed's 100th anniversary in 1954. The celebration's high point was to be a daylong festival at Little Compton on August 21, 1954.
Two state bird bills were introduced in the Legislature; one promoting the Rhode Island Red chicken, backed by farmer's groups and the American Legion, and another, promoting the ruby-throated hummingbird, backed by the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs. The Rhode Island Red was approved by both houses of the Legislature. On May 3, 1954, Governor Dennis Roberts signed the legislation making the Rhode Island Red chicken the official bird of the State of Rhode Island.
The Rhode Island General Laws
The following information is excerpted from the Rhode Island General Laws, Title 42, Chapter 4, Section 42-4-5.
TITLE 42: State Affairs and Government.
Rhode Island Red Chicken (Domestic Chicken): General information, description and history of the Rhode Island Red chicken.
State Bird List: List of all of the state birds.
A Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America: Peterson Field Guide: Roger Tory Peterson.
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America: Written and Illustrated by David Allen Sibley.
State Birds & Flowers 1000-pc Puzzle: Created at the request of The National Wildlife Federation this design is a beautiful and informative puzzle featuring every state bird perched on the appropriate state flower.
Bird Feeders and Accessories: Backyard Birding > Bird Feeders & Accessories from Amazon.com.
State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols: A Historical Guide, Third Edition - Benjamin F. Shearer and Barbara S. Shearer, Greenwood Press, 2002
State Names, Flags, Seals, Songs, Birds, Flowers and Other Symbols: A Study based on historical documents giving the origin and significance of the state names, nicknames, mottoes, seals, flowers, birds, songs, and descriptive comments on the capitol buildings and on some of the leading state histories, Revised Edition - George Earlie Shankle, Ph.D., The H.W. Wilson Company, 1938 (Reprint Services Corp. 1971)
Source: Rhode Island General Laws, (http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/Statutes.html), April 13, 2005
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