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

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northern cardinal to perch on a log

Indiana’s state bird is the striking Northern Cardinal, a red bird that spends the entire year in the state. It was chosen by the Indiana General Assembly in 1933 and, like most state birds, was chosen because it is either resident or has adopted the state as its primary home. 

The Northern Cardinal is the most popular of state birds, having been chosen by seven states, including Indiana. The Western Meadowlark is the second most popular, being the state bird of six different states.

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What Is Indiana’s State Bird?

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs started a campaign in the 1920s to designate state birds, and states started to choose their own birds starting with Alabama, Florida, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Wyoming in 1927. All 50 states, and DC, now have their own official state bird, with the last state to officially name its bird being Arizona, which declared the Cactus Wren in 1973.

Indiana selected the Northern Cardinal in 1933 when it was adopted by the General Assembly. Only Alaska, California, and South Dakota allow the hunting of their official state bird, but a further seven have designated a separate state game bird that can be hunted. Indiana does not permit the hunting of the Northern Cardinal and does not have a separate game bird.

northern cardinal landed on a wood
Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

About the Northern Cardinal

There are several reasons why the Northern Cardinal has become the most popular state bird. It is a medium-sized songbird, which means that, as well as its bright red plumage, it has a distinctive song. It can grow to approximately 9 inches in length and is often referred to simply as the redbird.

Present in the state all year round, the hardy Cardinal has developed to survive in extreme and harsh conditions. As well as changing feather positions, the bird can regulate blood flow and they will shiver to help maintain body heat.

Cardinals are a popular backyard bird throughout the year, but they are especially popular at feeders in winter when their bright red color really pops against the white of the snow. Feed a variety of black oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts, and suet cakes to have the best chance of attracting this notable bird to your garden.

What Is the Indiana State Animal?

Indiana does not officially have a state animal. Many people do think of the cardinal as being the state animal, but it is really only the state bird. A state animal may be adopted in the future, but there currently isn’t one, unlike many other states.

What Is Indiana’s State Flower?

Originally, Indiana’s state flower was the zinnia, but in 1957, the zinnia was replaced by the current state flower, the peony. It is found throughout the state and is a bright and colorful flower that is grown ornamentally as well as wild.

two pink peonies budding
Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay

What Is Indiana’s State Food?

Strictly speaking, Indiana does not have a state food. However, the Hoosier State does have a state pie, which is sugar cream pie, and this is most commonly assumed to be the state food. Sugar cream pie, or desperation pie, is made from sugar, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

What Is Indiana’s State Tree?

The state tree of Indiana was selected in 1931 and is the tulip tree or yellow poplar tree. The yellow poplar is actually a member of the magnolia family rather than the poplar family, but it is prevalent throughout the state.


The Northern Cardinal is the state bird of Indiana and is shared with six other states, making it the most popular state bird. Its popularity is likely because of its striking color and its propensity to sing. Because it is a hardy and adaptable bird, it has also learned to survive in some extreme conditions, especially in extreme cold, so it does not usually migrate. The Cardinal is also treated as the state animal, although officially Indiana does not have a state animal yet.

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Featured Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

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.