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Robins vs. chickadees: The state bird controversy continues

Apr 8, 2015

The robin became the official bird of Michigan 84 years ago today, and that decision stirred up a lasting controversy. 

One argument says the robin shouldn't be our state bird because it isn't exclusive to Michigan.
Credit FLICKR USER VICKI DELOACH / FLICKR

Dan Austin of the Detroit Free Press and HistoricDetroit.org, said the process to elect the robin as the state bird was a democratic one.

The Michigan Audubon Society held a contest in 1929 and almost 200,000 Michiganders voted. The final runners in the election? The robin and the chickadee.

In the end, though, the robin came out on top and became out state bird officially in 1931.

“But that battle continues to wage this day,” Austin said.

There’s a chickadee lobby that’s making some pretty loud noise. Austin said some of the critiques they’ve given of the robin: “The robin is a fair-weather friend,” he said. “It’s a snow bird, it doesn’t stick around in Michigan, it doesn’t stay by your side through those bitter Michigan winters like the chickadee does. And I guess that’s true.”

However, the argument goes both ways. Some say the robin is a sign of spring and hope – a sign that proves the state has made it through yet another winter.