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What Is Delaware’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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blue hens chicken in white background

Every state has its own state bird, but few states embrace their state bird as much as Delaware does with the blue hen. But how did a bird that’s not even native to the state become such a cultural icon in the area?

That’s quite an interesting story, with roots dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. We break it all down for you here, and we also give you a little more background on the blue hen, including whether they can fly and if they’re still around today!

What Is Delaware’s State Bird and How Was It Picked?

Delaware’s state bird is the Delaware blue hen, scientifically referred to as the Gallus gallus. It’s been the state bird of Delaware since 1939, and it has great historical significance in the state.

During the Revolutionary War, a company of soldiers from Delaware reportedly traveled with a blue hen that belonged to their captain, John Caldwell. The blue hen’s offspring were reportedly some of the best cockfighters around, and the name spread.

The company became known as “The Blue Hen’s Chickens” or the “Sons of the Blue Hen,” and the name stuck. In 1911, the University of Delaware made the blue hen its official mascot, and on April 14, 1939, the blue hen became the official state bird of Delaware.

However, the blue hen isn’t native to Delaware, and technically, it isn’t even a recognized species. Instead, it’s a particular subset of the American game cock, referring to their coloring.

Delaware blue hen chicken

Image Credit: lunamarina, Shutterstock

Do Blue Hens Live in Delaware?

No! While you can certainly find a few blue hens living on farms in the state and even at the University of Delaware, it’s far from their native range. Blue hens are American gamecocks, and their natural range is in the southern part of the United States.

Blue hens need warm climates like in Louisiana to live in the wild without struggling and dying off during the cold winter months. That said, many American gamecocks are so domesticated now that they couldn’t live out in the wild even if you did release them in the appropriate area.

Are Blue Hens Extinct?

No. While the blue hen technically isn’t its own breed, you can still find this coloring on American gamecocks.

In fact, due to its unique coloring, it’s often a pricy American gamecock to purchase, leading to a larger population size than you might expect for such a particular subset of the species.

Can Blue Hens Fly?

While a blue hen can fly, they can’t fly the same way that a pigeon or a dove can. They can go into very short bursts of flight to avoid predators. They can fly up into a tree or another elevated area, but anything beyond that and the blue hen simply can’t make the trip!

 

Final Thoughts

Few states have as much history as Delaware does with their state bird, and now you have a better understanding of where it comes from and how it’s been integrated into the culture. Delaware is proud of its blue hen heritage, even if you can’t find a blue hen living out in the wild in the entire state!


Featured Image Credit: lunamarina, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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