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

By Johnny Ginter on April 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm
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

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