Official State Sea Shells

Did you know that some U.S. states have an official sea shell?

States choose to have an official bird, gem or flower based on something that is common to the state or essential to the state’s commerce. Sea shell species are usually picked to be officially representative of a state for the same reason; it could be found abundantly or be part of their coastal economy (like oysters).

I’ve written previously on state birds and a time when an organization was trying to change the state bird of Florida. It is interesting to me how strongly people feel about their “official” representative and how political the debate to keep, change or even adopt one can get.

I was researching sea shells for a Crafty Beachcomber project and decided to find out which coastal states in the U.S. had official sea shells.  Here’s the list:

  • Alabama: Johnstone’s Junonia
  • Connecticut: Eastern Oyster
  • Delaware: Channeled Whelk
  • Florida: Horse Conch
  • Georgia: Knobbed Whelk
  • Massachusetts: Wrinkled Whelk
  • Mississippi: Eastern Oyster
  • New Jersey: Knobbed Whelk
  • New York: Bay Scallop
  • North Carolina: Scotch Bonnet
  • Oregon: Oregon Hairy Triton
  • Rhode Island: Northern Quahog
  • South Carolina: Lettered Olive
  • Texas: Prickly Whelk
  • Virginia: Eastern Oyster

Meanwhile, several states also have a state fossil that is a type of mollusk.  Not all are coastal states; here is the list:

A bit of trivia: the word “conch” comes from a Greek word meaning “shell”. So it’s redundant to say “conch shell”.

 

Source: http://www.statesymbolsusa.org and the individual state websites

 Photo credit: they are mine and copyrighted. Please ask permission to use.

 

Election Day 2008, Vote for your Florida State Bird

Today is election day.  This great state of Florida is a battleground for the Presidential pick.  It’s also a state where students in grades 4-8 can vote on their pick for a new state bird. 

Florida’s state bird is currently the mockingbird.  mockingbirdFour other states have the mockingbird as their state bird.  They are Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and Arkansas.  We have a ton of mockingbirds around here.  We also have wrens, cardinals, vireos, crows, ospreys, eagles, herons, egrets, cormorants and woodpeckers that come around daily, but the mockingbird is a more common presence.

Anyway, Florida Fish and Wildlife has put together a short list of birds that they feel better represent our state: icnsnowy_egret-102snowy egret,

 great_egret_11_chipgreat egret,

brown-pelican1brown pelican,

 black-skimmersblack skimmer and

 ospreyosprey.  The criteria used to pick these birds include having a distribution around the state, are easily visible and identifiable, are both native to Florida and breed here, are not listed as threatened or endangered and have a striking and beautiful appearance.   

If you are a student or have a student in grades 4 through 8, please go to www.vote4bird.org today only between 7am and 7pm.  The bird that is chosen today with the most votes will not, however, automatically become the new state bird.  This will have to be handled through the legislative branch of our state government.  But, your vote will give Florida Fish and Wildlife the bird to present, through a Bill, to the legislature.  The website, www.Vote4bird.org, will, as I understand, post information after the election so you can follow the process.  You can get more involved by writing to your representatives. 

Birds are such an important part of our lives.  They are not only a joy to see, study, identify and listen to, but they are also an indicator of the health of our environment.  I have had more fun with birding as a hobby than with other hobbies.  If you spend time outdoors, keep a camera and binoculars with you.  Listen for bird calls and songs, check out some library books on birds in your area or purchase them so you can make notes in them.  I like writing in one book the date I spotted a new bird or was able to recognize a particular bird by identifying its call rather than actually seeing it.  Yes, I’m middle-aged and have seen a ton of birds in my life, but I also move from state to state often so having a new list and state bird book each time is kind of cool.  There are plenty of websites on birding.  My favorite is the Cornell University site, www.birds.cornell.edu.  The Audubon Society has chapters in most cities and towns.  Nature centers and both state and national parks have bird walks. 

I’m glad that Florida is doing this and I hope the other states find a more appropriate bird to represent their states as well.  The mockingbird, although a really cool bird for many reasons which I may blog about in a day or two, is quite common and I believe a “State Bird” should be one that is unique to that state.  When I lived in Mississippi, a wonderful friend of mine and I had this same conversation of changing the state bird.  Mississippi has unique birds as does Florida.  We had discussed how cool it would be if the Mississippi Kite became the Mississippi state bird.  Maybe I’ll put a bug in someones ear up there to look into the process. 

But, for now, go ahead and have the kids vote today for a new Florida state bird.  Mine will vote as soon as I’m off my blog. 

Happy voting…happy birding!