What is the State Bird of Wisconsin? (And Why?)

Wisconsin, also known as the Badger State and America's Dairyland, is the 25th largest by area and the 20th most populous state in the United States. The state animal for Wisconsin is the American Badger, but what is the state bird?

In 1949, the robin redbreast became the state bird of Wisconsin. Also known as the American robin (Turdus migratorius), the migratory songbird identifiable by its red breast features chest feathers varying in hue from peach to red maroon. Known as a cheerful bird, the early morning singer belts out its song as it forages.

The state bird of Wisconsin, the American Robin

The state bird of Wisconsin, the American Robin

Why is the American robin the state bird for Wisconsin?

Bird lovers in the state waged a two-decade-long campaign for this beloved avian. Wisconsin held a contest to determine its state bird in 1926 and 1927. Sponsored by the Wisconsin Federated Women's Clubs, the statewide survey of Wisconsin school children determined their preference for a state bird.

Although chosen in 1927, Conservation Chairman, Mrs Walter Bowman, had to continue championing the bird until the legislature acted in 1949.

When did the American robin become the state bird for Wisconsin?

Its legislature adopted the bird through legislation on June 4, 1949. It shares the American robin as a state bird with Connecticut and Michigan.

American Robin perched in a tree, calling

American Robin perched in a tree, calling

What does the state bird of Wisconsin look like?

The female and male of the redbird look alike; however, the female’s colors appear paler crimson on her stomach and chest. Otherwise, they each feature dark gray to black heads. It would be solid except for a broken eye ring and their streaked throat.

The American robin usually has a black bill marked with a bit of yellow and a base of brown. Both genders have a gray upper body with white under their tail. During their youth, the red robin has a spotted white breast. At all ages, both genders grow paler winter plumage.

You could consider this a medium-sized bird since it grows to a length of 8.5 to 11 inches with a wingspan of 12 to 16 inches. As large as they grow, they only weigh between 2.3 and 3 ounces.

American Robin eating berries during winter

American Robin eating berries during winter

How do these birds behave?

When you hear a solo song first thing in the morning, you probably hear an energetic, cheerful, red robin. They tend to sing solos while they frequent residential areas to forage the lawns for food.

Outside of the breeding season, the redbird likes to travel. This migratory bird goes on adventures, frequenting both North America and Central America. The Wisconsin birds of this species enjoy travelling to Florida for the winter. Others of the species fly to the Gulf Coast, central Mexico, or the Pacific Coast. During the warmer months of spring and summer, they often fly north to Alaska or Canada.

The nest of a American Robin, with 4 blue eggs inside

The nest of a American Robin, with 4 blue eggs inside

Each year, they spend the months of April to July mating and breeding. Typically a cheerful bird, the male of the species will fiercely defend their territory. American robins practice serial monogamy. Each year, a male and a female find one another and pair off to procreate. They remain together during the breeding season, procreating two to three broods of three to five eggs each. They incubate the eggs together and care for the kids as a pair until the chicks leave the nest.

Once impregnated, the female passes the eggs. She then incubates the eggs for 14 days. Chicks hatch from the eggs with no eyesight and no feathers. During the two weeks following their birth, the chicks develop feathers and the ability to see. Once they have their flight feathers, the chicks get to explore the world outside the nest. They first learn short distance flights, the long distance. They strike off on their own after developing their flight skills.

Female American Robin

Female American Robin

Do American robins form communities?

American robins do form communities but only temporarily. They do so to maximize safety when travelling long distances. Travelling in large numbers decreases the risk of a predator attacking. Their migration pattern consists of going south for the winter, then returning to Wisconsin for breeding. Once breeding season rolls around, they reduce their socialness.

During both winter and summer, when they reach their destination, they divide into small groups. Each couple builds a nest for breeding in summer, but in winter, each bird constructs its own individual nest. This results in the bird technically having two homes.

In both locations, their nests sit high above the ground, between 4.9 feet to 14.8 feet, typically in a branch fork or in dense bush. The red robin uses hardy materials for nest construction, weaving them together by flying back and forth to interconnect them. They combine paper, twigs, coarse grasses, and feathers.

Once they have woven together the materials to create the home foundation, they smear mud on the nest’s floor and pile in soft grasses to create a carpet. They may also add bits of pillow stuffing, cloth or other soft items.

They forage their breeding territory for items in a similar way to which they hunt for food. The female bird prioritizes the soft items because she will need to sit continuously for two weeks to incubate the eggs.

American Robin feeding on an orange

American Robin feeding on an orange

What do American robins eat?

American robins eat an omnivore diet. While they munch on berries, their absolute joy is meat. They dine on small invertebrates, including grubs, worms, and grasshoppers. When the season allows it, they eat fruits, too. The variety in their diet serves them well.

Since they travel so frequently, from Canada to Florida each year, this lets them eat whatever becomes available. When they can’t find a favorite berry in one state, they switch to an available bug.

For an in-depth guide on the diet of American Robins, check out this article.

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