Rep. Markkanen submits bill to change Michigan state bird

The American Robin would be replaced with the Kirtland’s Warbler, which was removed from the Endangered Species List in late 2019.
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 7:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 8:54 PM EDT
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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - The American Robin has been Michigan’s state bird since 1931.

But it appears to have some competition for that position in the form of a house bill submitted by 110th State House District Representative Greg Markkanen.

“The robin is a state bird for many states, and it’s nowhere close to extinction and never has been,” said Markkanen. “And I think that Michigan deserves a bird that uniquely represents the State of Michigan, and the Kirtland’s Warbler does that.”

The Kirtland’s Warbler lives primarily in Michigan, Wisconsin and parts of southern Canada.

It was one of the first species listed when the Endangered Species Preservation Act was passed in 1967.

Their numbers severely dropped through the 1970′s and 80′s due to reduced young jack pine habitat and invasive parasites from brown-headed cowbirds.

Due to conservation efforts, however, the warbler made a huge comeback and was removed from the endangered species list in late 2019.

“The Kirtland’s Warbler, I think, reflects and represents Michigan and the hard work of many volunteers and the State DNR to bring this bird back,” continued Markkanen.

Some bird experts in Houghton County agree with the idea of the warbler being recognized as the new state bird.

Keweenaw Wild Bird R.E.C.’s Michelle Anderson called attention to how unique the warbler’s recovery story is to the state.

“I love the idea of renaming the state bird to the Kirtland’s Warbler,” she wrote. “I certainly love the American Robin, our current state bird, but the Kirtland’s Warbler has amazing conservation and a comeback story specific to Michigan. This bird’s rebound story mimics what we possess in the U.P.--determination, tenacity, resilience and toughness.”

President of the Copper Country Audubon, Dana Richter, noted how it would be unique from other state birds.

“It is sort of a Michigan bird, and it would be unique among the states for having a state bird as a Kirtland’s Warbler,” said Richter. “There would be no other state with that bird.”

Markkanen says he is optimistic about the bill’s success.

“This effort has a better chance at success because we have bipartisan support across the aisle,” he added. “And that is very important in an effort like this. It’s not just me, it’s not just my caucus, it’s people on both sides of the aisle supporting this effort.”

The bill, House Bill 6382, was referred to the State House Committee on Government Operations last Wednesday, where it currently remains.