Utah State Bird
Adoption of the Utah State Bird
The sea gull, even without official status, was long considered the state bird of Utah due to its storied role as a protector of crops. It gained this reputation during the summer of 1848 when swarms of crickets attacked pioneer food supplies. It was reported that flocks of the birds arrived, settled in the "...half-ruined fields" and "gorged themselves" on the attacking crickets. It's often stated that the sea gull was made the state bird in return for saving the settler's lives.
It was a long way from 1848 but, over 100 years later, a bill was introduced in the Utah House of Representatives by Richard C. Howe promoting the California gull as the official state bird. The bill was approved by the Utah Legislature and Governor J. Bracken Lee signed the legislation adopting the sea gull as the official state bird on February 14, 1955.
The statute does not identify a particular species, but official Utah websites consistently and emphatically identify the state bird as a California gull (Larus californicus), even remarking that the statute itself only identifies the state bird as a generic "sea gull."
Shearer, in his 2002 edition of State Names, Seals, Flags, and Symbols, displays a similar inconsistency by referring to the state bird as a "sea gull" and citing it as Larus californicus.
Shankle, though about 20 years ahead of the official act, is consistent. In his 1934 book, he refers to the "unofficial at the time" state bird as Larus californicus, the California gull.
Perhaps the 1955 legislature simply thought, "If it looks like a sea gull, walks like a sea gull and flies like a sea gull, it must be a sea gull?"
About the Utah State Bird
Saving the Crops
George Earlie Shankle wrote in 1934, twenty years before the California gull was officially adopted as the state bird of Utah,
Orson F. Whitney says that in the midst of the devastation of the crickets,
After devouring the crickets, the gulls returned
The Utah Code
The following information is excerpted from the Utah Code, Title 63, Chapter 13, Section 63-13-5.5. All of Utah's state symbols are listed in section 63-13-5.5. Below, we have listed only the entry regarding the official state bird.
TITLE 63 - STATE AFFAIRS IN GENERAL.
Amended by Chapter 152, 2003 General Session
Larus californicus (California Gull): University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.
State Bird List: List of all of the state birds.
Birds of Utah: Field Guide: by Stan Tekiela.
Birding Utah: D. E. McIver offers a guide to over 100 birding adventures across the state.
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: Utah Code, (http://www.le.state.ut.us/%7Ecode/code.htm), April 14, 2005
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