TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida may have a new state bird in 2022. Several lawmakers want to toss out the common mockingbird, which has held the top spot since 1927.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, thinks Florida needs a bird more closely tied to the Sunshine State. He's filed a bill to remove the mockingbird and is open to suggestions for a replacement.
"Maybe in the 20s when everybody was living inland and not on the coast of Florida, that was the bird," Brandes said. "But it ain't the bird anymore."
Mockingbirds grow to around 10 inches in length and have a wingspan of about 15 inches. Online, the state describes them as "a superb songbird and mimic."
"The mockingbird is helpful to humans because it usually feeds on insects and weed seeds," the Department of State's Office said. "In the summer and fall, it also eats ripe berries."
While the bird seems a friend to Floridians, two other lawmakers — State Rep. Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven, and State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, — also think the mockingbird's time has come. In their bi-partisan bird bills, the two suggest the Florida scrub jay should take over the pecking order.
Others are taking the question to Floridians directly. Several groups recently started an online petition and nomination site for the mockingbird's successor. But, to be fair, it does have its fans.
Well-known gun lobbyist Marion Hammer wrote a recent op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat, headlined: "In praise of the mockingbird: There's no room for debate."
"Since being designated the state bird in 1927, the mockingbird is a well-established, independent, prolific bird that has never needed government protection or our tax dollars to survive," Hammer wrote. "It can be seen, watched, studied, and enjoyed by children and adults in all areas of Florida."
Lawmakers will have the final say on this bird battle when they return for the 2022 legislative session. The 60-day gauntlet begins Tuesday, Jan. 11.