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

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northern mockingbird

Did you know that every state in the country has its own state bird? It’s largely a symbolic thing, but it definitely involves interesting stories.

So, why is Tennessee’s State bird the northern mockingbird, and how was it picked? We dive into everything that you need to know here.

What Is Tennessee’s State Bird?

Tennessee’s state bird is the northern mockingbird, a year-round resident in each of the lower 48 states. These birds also live in the Bahamas and large portions of Mexico.

They eat mostly insects and berries, and they have a puffy chest attached to a gray, black, and white body. In the wild, you can expect northern mockingbirds to live around 8 years, but if they’re in captivity and free from predators, they can live as long as 20 years!

How Did Tennessee Decide Its State Bird?

The northern mockingbird has been the state bird of Tennessee since April 19, 1933, and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon.

There was a state-wide initiative to educate residents about birds in the state. Then, Tennessee held a state-wide vote to determine which bird should be the official state bird.

The popular vote occurred on April 11, 1933, and the northern mockingbird won, so the state legislature adopted the resolution, making them the official state bird just 8 days later.

northern mockingbird up close
Image By: Hippo_Lytos, Pixabay

Do Mockingbirds Live in Tennessee?

Yes! A large reason the northern mockingbird is the state bird of Tennessee is that it is a year-round resident in the state. Not only are there plenty of northern mockingbirds that never leave the state, but during the winter months, many northern mockingbirds from northern regions venture down to the warmer weather in Tennessee.

So, yes, you can find northern mockingbirds in Tennessee, and it doesn’t matter what time of year you come to the state to look for them.

Does Tennessee Have Another State Bird?

While the northern mockingbird is the official state bird of Tennessee, another bird that you might hear about is the bobwhite quail.

While the northern mockingbird is the official state bird, the bobwhite quail is the official state game bird. It’s a fine distinction and one that Tennessee didn’t even bother to make until 1987.

The bobwhite quail, also known as the partridge, lives almost exclusively on the eastern side of the United States, although you can find them in the Bahamas and along the eastern coast of Mexico too.

northern mockingbird
Image By: Bishnu Sarangi, Pixabay


While it might not seem like it means too much, having an official state bird is a great way to raise awareness of the various ecological impacts that birds have on our local environments. It’s why every state in the country has an official state bird, and it’s a fun activity to dive into the different state birds for each state and why the state picked them.

Featured Image Credit: Steve Byland, 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.