KIRBY: The curious case of the brown thrasher

Brown thrashers are known to have one of the largest song repertoires of any North American bird.

 

– Francis Skalicky

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Most of you know that Georgia has a state bird – the brown thrasher.

You might not see them that often because bird-watchers consider them shy. They do sing, however, and are known to mimic other birds, as well as odd sounds – for example, a smacking noise that sounds much like a human kiss.

We are the only state to tap this modestly colored mockingbird cousin for official honor, and how it happened is curious.

Buried deep in the archives of The Augusta Chronicle is the May 6, 1928, account of a meeting of state garden clubs. Toward the bottom of this report is mention of plans to ask the Legislature to designate the humble brown thrasher as Georgia state bird.

“The brown thrasher had been selected by the school children of Atlanta as first choice,” reported the Fifth District, which I assume was also in Atlanta. State bird clubs backed the measure.

The article mentioned there had been some support for the more colorful red-headed woodpecker as Georgia’s top bird, but many tree owners objected.

So brown thrasher it was. But not officially.

Forty-two years later in 1970 a new crop of lawmakers wanted to make the bobwhite quail Georgia’s official bird. The attorney general researched the matter and found that the Legislature had never officially voted on the brown thrasher.

A compromise was reached.

After all, as state Rep. Dewey Rush, of Glennville, pointed out, “Nobody wants to eat the state bird.”

The brown thrasher was officially designated the state bird while the the bobwhite quail officially became the state game bird.

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OFFICIALLY SPEAKING: Georgia has made many things “official.”

Some are obvious: Official fruit (peach); official prepared food (grits); mammal (white-tailed deer); fish (large mouth bass); flower (Cherokee rose); tree (live oak); vegetable (Vidalia sweet onion); song, Georgia on My Mind.

Some, perhaps, not so obvious: Official amphibian (green tree frog); official butterfly (tiger swallowtail); official gem (quartz); mineral (Staurolite); reptile (gopher tortoise). We even have an official fossil (shark tooth).

We also have an official state insect, the honeybee. Although in the 1970s, Rep. Marvin Sorrells tried to make it the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket.

That would have been an improvement on earlier legislative efforts to make the state bug the boll weevil.

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TODAY’S JOKE: Here’s one from Frank Allen. An elderly patient said to his doctor, “My leg hurts all the time.”

“That’s just old age,” the doctor replied.

“Well, my other leg is exactly the same age, and it feels fine!”

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Reach Bill Kirby at bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com

 

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