TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 100 bills have already been filed ahead of 2023’s legislative session in Florida. A bill that already has bipartisan support seeks to change the official state bird from the mockingbird to the scrub-jay.
State Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) filed the legislation, Senate Bill 78, in mid-December. A companion bill filed in the Florida House by Rep. Sam Killebrew (R-Lakeland) was filed right before Christmas.
This is not the first attempt in recent years to change out the state bird. Currently, the mockingbird is the official state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. While it’s been the state bird for Florida since 1927, lawmakers have been working on changing that designation at various times, going back to 2016.
The most recent failed attempt came in 2022, when lawmakers, in a push led by former state Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg), polled residents on which avians could replace the mockingbird. Options included scrub-jay, flamingo, osprey, and roseate spoonbill.
Of the birds proposed, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the “Florida scrub-jay is the only species of bird that is endemic to Florida,” meaning it’s the only one that is actually native to the Sunshine State.
While native to Florida, the scrub-jays are not a thriving or common species. Scrub-jays, according to FWC, are “protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is also protected as a Threatened species by the Federal Endangered Species Act and as a Federally-designated Threatened species.”