Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

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

Last Updated on

Western Meadowlark
Photo Credit: jmrockeman, Pixabay

Oregon is a state filled with nature and unique environments. Oregon is home to dry forests, tall mountains, salty coastlines, cool lakes, and even some deserts and shrublands. All of these places make Oregon a top destination for nature enthusiasts. The official state animal of this nature-filled state is the beaver. The beaver is most notably also the mascot of Oregon State University. But what is the state bird of Oregon? 

The state bird of Oregon is the western meadowlark. The western meadowlark is an extremely popular bird throughout the western United States and is a notable songbird in Oregon. The bird primarily lives in shrubby grasslands and was a common sight for the original settlers of Oregon in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The western meadowlark is so popular that it is also the state bird of Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

hummingbird divider

Facts About The Western Meadowlark

The western meadowlark can be found in grasslands all across the western United States. It is well-loved for its bright cheery calls. Western meadowlarks are often heard even when they cannot be seen. This bird was more abundant in past generations when many Western people lived on homesteads on the edge of large fields and open swaths of grasslands. The western meadowlark was a common sight for Western settlers for decades, where it became extremely well-known and popular.

The western meadowlark sports a bright yellow throat and yellow belly with a distinctive black V-shape on the chest. The bird is related to common American blackbirds and orioles. The western meadowlark is a small bird that nests on the ground and spends most of its time hunting for bugs in open grassy fields. The western meadowlark primarily feasts on bugs such as worms, beetles, grasshoppers, and spiders. They also eat small grass seeds as well.

western meadowlark
Image Credit: jdblack, Pixabay

How Did Oregon Choose Their State Bird?

The western meadowlark was selected to be Oregon’s state bird in 1927. The bird was chosen by a statewide contest held among the student population. A survey was given out to Oregon’s roughly 80,000 students at the time. The students selected their favorite birds and submitted the answers to the state. The winner was the western meadowlark.

According to Oregon’s state Audubon Society, the western meadowlark earned over half of the votes and won the contest by a large margin. After the results came in, the state voted to make it official. The western meadowlark became the state bird.

Western Meadowlark Perched on a Fence Post
Image Credit: Kerry Hargrove, Shutterstock

State Bird Controversies

As the population and environment have slowly changed in Oregon, there have been some rumbles about changing the state bird. There were some members of Oregon’s state government that wanted to change the state bird from the western meadowlark to the osprey. The reason given was the fact that many Oregonians no longer live in the grassy areas of the state where the western meadowlark is most popular. The bird was chosen when most people in the state were familiar with the bird. Now, the bird is rarer and less familiar than it was in the past.

Oregon also has a large ecological diversity that is not represented by the western meadowlark. The western meadowlark is common throughout the western United States, and it is the state bird of many other states.

The suggested change caused an uproar among the birdwatching population in Oregon. They argued that it would be unfair to change the state bird, and if they were going to make a change, another contest should be held to let the people decide. Instead of evoking more controversy, the state never moved to change the state bird, and nothing was ever voted on or made official.

Despite the controversies, the western meadowlark remains the state bird of Oregon and has been since 1927.

hummingbird divider Conclusion

The western meadowlark might not be a unique choice for state birds, but it is one of the most popular birds in US history. The western meadowlark has a beautiful color and cheerful call that are recognizable in communities all over the United States. The schoolchildren of Oregon chose the state bird in 1927, and if the bird is ever going to be changed, it will likely have to be selected via survey once again.

You might be interested in:

Featured Image Credit: 

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.