The Eastern Bluebird is the New York State Bird, but you’d be hard pressed to spot one here in the five boroughs. Once common, the meek bluebird has retreated in the face of aggression by invasive sparrows and starlings. Its typical habitat, farms and orchards, is also a lot harder to come by in the urban and suburban sprawl. However, even as we speak, forces conspire to bring Sialia sialis back to its rightful place in our ecosystem.
The New York State Bluebird Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Eastern Bluebird. Its primary mission is to monitor and increase production of Eastern Bluebirds and certain other cavity nesting birds through a statewide nestbox program. The Bluebird Society is also committed to education and research. The Society’s website is rich with information about the bluebird and ways to care for and protect this lovely bird. One of the best parts, though, is the explanation of how the Eastern Bluebird became the New York State Bird. Did you know that New York was, in 1970, the last state to select an official state bird? There was even a bit of controversy surrounding its appointment, as this anecdote shows:
…An opponent materialized. Seymour Posner, Democrat of the Bronx, rose and said, “Mr. Speaker, I have some misgivings about the particular bill.” He pointed out that city dwellers, of which he was one, knew the sparrow and knew the pigeon. “But I think it is premature to talk about the bluebird,” he said, “because, very frankly, the bluebird is not a bird that is well known. Who has seen a blue jay – bluebird, whatever they are – who has ever seen a bluebird except on greeting cards, and people who live in rural America? People who live in the lower East Side and West Side and North Side and South Side – how are we going to go along with a bird we never saw?” Despite Posner’s antagonism, however, the bill passed – a hundred and forty-four to one – and in due course was sent along to the governor. Those present two months later at the signing report that he affixed his signature rapidly, with no outward show of emotion.
It always has to be someone from the Bronx, doesn’t it?