For the Birds Radio Program: Chickadee Petition

Original Air Date: March 22, 1999 (estimated date)

Laura wants the Black-capped Chickadee named Minnesota’s Emergency Auxiliary Backup State Bird.

Audio missing


With all the troubling news on local, state, national and international levels, someone has to jump in and divert attention to something sweet and pleasant-something to unite liberals and conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, Greens and Libertarians, hunters and animal rights advocates and everyone in between. And since everyone loves chickadees, I’ve started a petition to name the chickadee Minnesota’s Emergency Auxiliary Backup State Bird.

Of course, here in Minnesota we already have a wonderful state bird, the loon, a fitting symbol of the land of 10,000 lakes that has made Minnesota state lottery commercials a great success. The problem is, every October loons leave us in the lurch, spending the winter on the ocean.

Wisconsin’s state bird, the robin, is also migratory, but at least a few robins stick out the winter every year to ensure that their state bird responsibilities are fulfilled. Some people maintain that a state bird has no responsibilities , but when it comes right down to it, a state bird has at least as many responsibilities as the Queen of England. When she takes a trip, there’s a Prince of Wales to pick up the slack. Of course Minnesota is not a monarchy , except possibly in the imagination of a certain governor, so we can’t designate a Prince of Wales bird, but we can do the next best thing and appoint an emergency auxiliary backup state bird to perform the duties of state bird from mid-October through mid-April every year while loons are gone. And what better choice than the chickadee. An informal survey by the Minnesota DNR found that the chickadee is the most popular bird in the state.

Over the years I’ve heard from hundreds of people with heartwarming stories about chickadees. And what finer symbol of America at its best can there be? Chickadees inspire humans with their strength and determination. Each chickadee chisels out its own roosting cavity using nothing but its tiny beak and strong will. Chickadees are self-reliant: even when it’s 60 below zero, they each sleep in their own cavity, asking no quarter from the government or one another. They’re also uniquely optimistic: according to medical research, chickadees selectively allow brain neurons to die each autumn, growing new ones to accommodate and process new information. This prevents them from dwelling on the past and keeps their outlook ever fresh and new. But what makes chickadees especially good symbols for patriotic Minnesotans is their good will and community spirit: chickadees join with a wide variety of other bird species in cooperative feeding flocks, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity in a manner that is very much in keeping with the spirit of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Minnesota.

Of course, in a year when everyone is tightening our belts and trying to be fiscally responsible, one can’t help but ask how much designating the chickadee Minnesota’ s Emergency Auxiliary Backup State Bird will cost the taxpayer. Chickadees are willing to serve their appointment entirely without compensation, so the overall costs will be very little. Unless the legislature or governor wastes a lot of time debating the issue, it shouldn’t cost much to approve. But asking about the exact cost is like asking how much airplane tickets cost at a given moment. No one really knows.

If you want to help get the chickadee appointed as Minnesota’s Emergency Auxiliary Backup State Bird, please print the petition from my website or email or call me and I’ll mail you one. I’ll be very grateful for your help, and so will your chickadees.