(2-minute read) ALASKA’S STATE BIRD JUST ISN’T SEXY ENOUGH? TAKE OUR POLL
I’ll admit it. When I’m eyeball to eyeball with an adult raven on a foggy evening, it creeps me out a little bit.
But then, so do half of the people I run into at the midtown Anchorage Walmart.
And yet, like any good macho gangsta, the raven commands a certain respect. One is never too sure about who is on the top of the food chain when a raven is holding his ground near a garbage bag full of fish scraps. He’ll tilt his head and look at you, sizing up the angle he’ll approach your eyeballs as he plans his attack.
In one of the most important pieces of legislation that Sen. Scott Kawasaki has ever authored (Think Local Day being right up there), the Fairbanks freshman senator has proposed to change the State bird from the willow ptarmigan to the common raven.
That glossy black hulk of a bird that crossed the Bering Straits land bridge and has been stalking human encampments in Alaska ever since, that surly bird so iconic in literature and Southeast Alaska Native cosmology, could have a new feather in its cap: Official State Bird.
You might call it the ultimate clever prank on humans by the “Trickster” raven, inserting himself into our very government.
They’re city slickers, most of them. So ubiquitous they are in some places that they are practically pests, dumpster diving as they do. While they can’t tear open a caribou carcass with their beaks, they surely can undo a garbage bag.
When they group together, as they also do quite raucously, they are referred to as an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy” of ravens.
They’re smart. They’re communicative. And, bleh, very few creatures in the natural world want to eat them.
That’s unlike the willow ptarmigan, which is a fat, juicy grouse popular with humans, foxes, wolves, and raptors. The willow ptarmigan boasts that it can change colors with the seasons to better blend and evade the dinner table, and that’s a good trick, something that ravens cannot do. But beyond being camo birds, no one has much kind to say about their good nature.
But should Alaska mess with the state bird, while preparing to look at a $3.2 billion budget ($1.6 billion smaller than last year’s state budget)? The willow ptarmigan, after all, was voted on by school children in 1955 and has been the official state bird since Statehood. Think of the children.
Senate Bill 28 would vote in the raven and vote out the hapless ptarmigan. It amends Sec. 44.09.060 to read that “The Common Raven (Corus Cora principalis) is the official bird of the state.”
Hop on over to the Must Read Alaska Facebook page and take our poll: Raven or Willow Ptarmigan for official state bird?