The B1G List: Ranking the State Birds of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on April 22, 2013 at 4:30p
The B1G List: State Birds of the Big Ten

Let's face it: the offseason sucks, and is little more than a several months-long reminder that our lives are empty husks without the soothing siren song of football to remind us of our superiority to other geographical locations and the people that live in them. So to remedy this, we sat down and discussed ways that we could get through the offseason while simultaneously finding completely stupid and arbitrary things to feel superior about. The result is The B1G List.


They're everywhere. Invading our parks, shaking down the elderly for their precious bread (old people need fiber), pooping on our cars in such a way that it could not have possibly been an unintentional accident; truly birds are the scourge of our skies and the harbinger of all that is bad in this world. Birds, as made famous in the movie "The Birds" and "Birdemic: Shock and Terror," are truly the most feared of all Earth's creatures, which is why each of the 50 states have selected a bird to represent their region and strike fear in the hearts of all those who enter their realm.

And of course the Big Ten is no exception. Each of the nine states which currently have colleges in the Big Ten have carefully selected the most ravenous and feared avian from within the confines of their states to show the rest of the country just how foolish it would be to mess with the likes of an Indiana, or Illinois, or Minnesota.

But, alas, not all winged hellspawns are created equal, and today we shall look at who is top dog... bird... bird-dog in the states of the Big Ten.

9. Iowa – Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

The Eastern Goldfinch is a complete and total wuss, a real Melvin of the bird world. Chosen as the state bird because its strong resemblance to the color of the thousands of gold bars currently stacked in Kirk Ferentz's basement, the Eastern Goldfinch is actually only that color during its summer molt, because it is too lazy to look good for company the rest of the year.

These pansy-ass finches are frequently the target of Cowbirds, which lay their much bigger eggs in the nests of a Goldfinch: the resulting hatchling forces the dumbass adoptive parents to feed them while neglecting their own biological children, an effective metaphor for out-of-state recruits and the Iowa University student body.

8. Pennsylvania – Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

The Ruffed Grouse"I'm not sayin' Joe Pa didn't know. Not sayin' he did, either."

The Ruffed Grouse is basically nature's chicken, except you probably haven't ever eaten grouse wings slathered in hot sauce. And boy, let me tell you, you are missing out. The Ruffed Grouse is a pretty boring grouse, as far as grouses go.

Their one defining characteristic is that they are the Dirty Dingy Daryls of the bird world, in that they flap around in dirt and gravel when they want to eat, mate, or make a lot of noise. Your typical Penn State fan can relate.

7. Illinois – Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)


So nice they named it twice, the Northern Cardinal is an okay bird, I guess. They're everywhere, eat bugs, and look pretty cool, which is probably why seven different states decided that it should be their state bird. It's a bird that says "yes, we have a state bird and no, it isn't going to be the Cedar Waxwing because we are going to straight up wuss out and bow to the giant Northern Cardinal lobby."

It is a well-known fact that Illinois chose the Northern Cardinal as their state bird purely for the purposes of pissing Indiana off.

6. INdiana – Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Yeah, you know what, screw you Illinois. Indiana needs this.

5. & 4. Michigan & Wisconsin – American Robin (Turdus migratorius)

I know some of you would like to have this bird and these states ranked a little lower, but bear with me for a bit here. I mean, sure, the robin is about the most boring, commonplace songbird anyone can possibly think of, but if you think about it, that really makes it the perfect bird to represent states with some of the most boring and regressive styles of football in the NCAA.

Also it has the word "turd" in its Latin name, which is very funny, and remember that Cowbird problem that the Eastern Goldfinch has? Yeah, American Robins are highly xenophobic and kick those Cowbird eggs right out of their nests. USA! USA! USA!

3. Nebraska – Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta)

The Western MeadowlarkEats berries, recruits adequately.

Now this is a cool bird. For one thing, Western Meadowlarks are permanent throughout much of their range. Incredible, and even more so when you realize that they mainly eat insects, but will also sometimes go after berries and other low to the ground vegetation. Amazing. Truly, truly amazing.

Actually now that I think about it, they aren't that cool. In fact, it's kind of startling how quickly my enthusiasm for the Western Meadowlark is beginning to wear off.

Sure, they might make the Big Ten Championship every so often, but really, it's pretty much just another Michigan State with slightly better recruiting and a slightly worse coach, and how many Rose Bowls are they bringing home? Like zero, and oohhh we're not talking about birds anymore, are we?

2. Minnesota – Common Loon (Gavia immer)

Loons are unironically some of my favorite birds. They're like cool versions of ducks that got held back a year and smoke weed in the utility shed after school. They've got these black heads and creepy beady, red eyes, and can also dive straight down for like 200 feet. What are they even trying to catch down there? They're loons!

Minnesota generally has some pretty bad college and professional teams, but they've made some pretty decent choices in terms of water-based mascots.

1. Ohio – Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

The king of all birds for the king of all states. Ohio, as usual, truly separated itself from the pack in choosing this majestic creature, also known as "the Blue Jay's kickass older brother." Ohio is a state full of winners, and as the only state smart enough to pick the Northern Cardinal as its official state bird, Ohio wins again. Maybe that's why OSU's motto of Disciplina in civitatem, in the common tongue, translates to "Cardinals are completely amazing in every conceivable way."

So, once again, Ohio (and therefore by extension, Ohio State) stands supreme. Hopefully that fact staves off any latent insecurity for another week, when we'll tackle state mottos. See you then.

The B1G List: State Birds | State Mottos


Comments Show All Comments

CanadianBuckeye's picture

"They're like cool versions of ducks that got held back a year and smoke weed in the utility shed after school."
That is the best description of a loon I have ever read.  I am proud that my currency is represented by such a majestic creature.

MN Buckeye's picture

so is ours (on the state quarter)

tussey's picture

Shouldn't Indiana and Illinois be tied with Ohio or at least be 2 and 3 since they all have the same bird? 

CanadianBuckeye's picture

No, because Cardinals from Ohio are much cooler than Cardinals from other states.

Earle's picture

Yeah, because Ohio cardinals are scarlet, while other cardinals are, well, cardinal.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Doc's picture

Thanks a ton Earle.  I now have Pepsi sprayed all over my screen.  It ain't coming off that easy either.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

How dare you suggest such blasphemy.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Riggins's picture

Here is Sparty's official bird.

Hovenaut's picture

Stay calm and run.....Darwin?

I'm never getting that image out of my head.

Riggins's picture

Go home, evolution. You're drunk. (SFW blog about strange animal biology)

Phillips.449's picture

Thanks a bunch Riggins I just wasted about an hour on WTFEvolution.

Buckeyeneer's picture

The famed Walruskeet. Never thought I would see one

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

Earle's picture

They're not that hard to find during their migratory season, as they only move backwards five yards at a time. But you have to listen for their call. It is vaguely reminiscent of an official whistling a false start.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

Hovenaut's picture

LOL, +1 (after the five yards are walked off).

CALPOPPY's picture

I thought that was the mating ritual.
I assumed that the migratory route went from Ohio to upstate New York, then to northern Indiana, and then to Michigan. But the migration pattern is all screwed up as it's not seasonal.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

MediBuck's picture

We have a winner.

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

M Man's picture

I logged in solely to award a helmet sticker to the Spartan walruskeet.  Brilliant execution.


LABuckeye's picture

In my opinion, the most badass conceivable state bird would be the Harpy Eagle, but unfortunately they don't occur in North America...

johnblairgobucks's picture

This comment reminds me of when I watched "Go Diego, Go!" and Click the Camera, when my kids were toddlers.

FROMTHE18's picture

Ohio's Cardinal is descended from the Pterodactyl

WyoBuckeye's picture

Any bird that plays the drums deserves better than #8.

BuckeyeMark's picture

I believe what Riggins has posted is a Green Crested Bollman, the state bird that all love because it cannot be OFFENSIVE. 

MN Buckeye's picture

Man, this is a really, really slow time of the year!

MN Buckeye's picture

ok, got to tell my one ruffed grouse story.  I was camping in the boundary waters (MN/Canada border), where you have to paddle and portage all your stuff, and my canoe partner and I saw a ruffed grouse on the path ahead.  My friend picked up a stone, with his 80-lb pack on, and threw it at the bird and missed.  The second stone was dead-on.  Let me say that fresh ruffed grouse tastes pretty damn good!

alust2013's picture

I actually get annoyed by cardinals. I realize that this article is entirely for entertainment, but when I was a kid, there was a cardinal that would fly into the closed windows of our house. It was pretty funny the first time it happened, but it was still doing it a few dozen times a day when we moved out three or so years later.

...and Michigan still sucks.

741's picture

It was my understanding that everyone had heard.

Poison nuts's picture

Ohio is a state full of winners, and as the only state smart enough to pick the Northern Cardinal as its official state bird, Ohio wins again. Maybe that's why OSU's motto of Disciplina in civitatem, in the common tongue, translates to "Cardinals are completely amazing in every conceivable way".


"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

CentralFloridaBuckeye's picture

Well, this helped me pass another day until we get to the greatness of the football season.  Great article Johnny!

AJW_16's picture

Yep, it's definitely the offseason.

"Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you." 

abrahajc's picture

yikes we are really hurting for material on 11w when we are ranking state birds, hurry up football season!

4thandinches's picture

Yeah, you know what, screw you Illinois. Indiana needs this.

Bwahahaha, this is great. 

I wasn't born a Buckeye but I became one as fast as I could. 

Hovenaut's picture

I'm under the impression the American Robin is now endangered in the Mitten State, since a migratory turd is the head coach.

Citrus's picture

I read this to maybe be a troll douche and post something about how it is a slow period. However, i freaking guffawed at your loon description and heartily chuckled upon reading that the cardinal was the blue-jay's kick ass older brother.


rdubs's picture

Hawaii has this amazing bird called the red-headed cardinal.  With both scarlet and gray it is one of my favorites.

MediBuck's picture

Yep. The red-crested cardinal. Those things were everywhere during my childhood in Honolulu :)

"There is a force that makes us all brothers, no one goes his way alone." --Woody Hayes

spqr2008's picture

My aunt and uncle had a few that kept trying to set up house in a Plumeria tree in their front yard, but the ten cats would have nothing to do with it.  The cats would launch off of the garage roof to get into the tree, fall off, and eventually snag a branch they were sitting on.  I don't think they ever built any nests (any scarlet and gray bird is smarter than that), but they were pretty.

Dougger's picture

Ha. I couldn't get through the first paragraph without laughing out loud.
It does not surprise me in the least bit that the genus of the state bird of Michigan and Wisconsin has turd in it... totally apt.

I like football

BeijingBucks's picture

I almost found myself liking the new Wisky coach.  Was confused at first as to why then realized it was 'anybody but fat Bielma!'  
at least we still have the Gulo Gulo

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

d1145fresh's picture

Don't forget New Jersey's state bird the American Goldfinch

and Maryland's state bird, the Baltimore Oriole

johnblairgobucks's picture

my bad D1145Fresh, didn't realize your comment. 

d1145fresh's picture

No worries I think we hit submit at the same time. Plus I think my Oriole is a female version of the bird and your picture is of the male. However I might have those two reversed. 

johnblairgobucks's picture

 Hopefully Jim Palmer doesn't represent all Baltimore Orioles:


439LawDog's picture

I can't believe that a story about state birds (to include comments) made me laugh that hard! Thanks to all involved and Cant wait until we start ranking state mottos and or license plates.....

hail2victors9's picture

For once, I might have ranked Michigan even lower.  I hate robins. 

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

GoBucksToledo's picture

Excellent Johnny, thanks for making my day!
I know I'm going to be down-voted for this but..can' fingers....
Shouldn't this article have been tweeted?

Firmthyfriendship's picture

Everbody knows the Bird is the word!

doodah_man's picture

Thanks for this in the CFB Deadzone! Are you not entertained! 

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910