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State Symbols: Official State Birds and Flower Designations of the 50 States
Illinois Symbols, State Bird & State Flower
Adopted in 1929.
In 1928, the Macomb branch of the National Federation of Professional Women's Clubs urged that Illinois schoolchildren select a State Bird. The idea was approved by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and schoolchildren chose the Cardinal from a list of five birds conspicuous in Illinois.
Thus, Illinois became the first of seven states to choose the cardinal as its state bird. The cardinal was made the official bird of Illinois in 1929 after receiving 39,226 votes. Schoolchildren selected this bird over the bluebird, meadowlark, quail and oriole. The cardinal is also the state bird for Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
The cardinal was named by early American settlers, after Catholic cardinals who dress in bright red robes. These birds are strongly territorial and have a loud, whistling song.
Their distinctive color (scarlet for males, buffy brown and red for females), pronounced crest, heavy bill, and easily recognizable song make cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) some of the most readily identified birds in the state.
Today this bird is a common year-round resident throughout the state. This has not always been the case. Since about 1900 the cardinal has greatly increased in abundance in northern Illinois. Around the turn of the century it was considered a rare visitor to the Chicago area; now it is quite common in that area. Urbanization and the increased use of bird feeders may have allowed the cardinals to expand their range northward.
Cardinals build their nests in bushes. Their nests are usually about 1.5 meters (4 to 5 ft.) above the ground. The eggs are laid between the middle of April and the middle of August. Cardinals usually lay several clutches of eggs each season. Each clutch consists of between two and five whitish eggs with dark streaks and spots on them.
Cardinals usually feed on the ground or in low bushes. They eat a wide variety of insects, grains, wild fruits, and seeds. They are common birds around bird feeders.
Flower by: Santalady
Adopted in 1908.
Illinois was the first of four states to choose the violet as its state flower. The violet was selected to be Illinois' state flower by schoolchildren in 1908. The violet is also the state flower for New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Although its name suggests its color, the violet comes in many colors including yellow, white, blue-violet, lilac-purple, and even an unusual green! There are at least 30 common violet species in Illinois with at least 25 types found in the Chicago area alone. Most species have small flowers (about 1 inch to 1½ inches across) usually containing five petals.
Violets are found in all kinds of sites from sunny prairies and lawns to shady woods and wetlands. The flowering season of the violet depends on the species and spans from mid-March to June. The whole violet is a favorite meal of rabbits, while mice, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse and mourning doves eat only the seeds.
One violet species is nicknamed "Johnny Jump-up" and many others have been the subject of poems and nursery rhymes. They have also been called "nature's vitamin pill." Believe it or not, violets are high in vitamin A and contain more vitamin C (ounce for ounce) than oranges!
The law that made the violet the state flower designated the "blue violet." Unfortunately, Gleason and Cronquist recognize approximately eight species of blue-flowered violets in the state. The most common of these is the dooryard violet (Viola sororia).
The dooryard violet is certainly one of the most recognizable native wildflowers in the state. It is also one of the most easily grown; it grows in anything from full sunlight to deep shade.
Many types of violets, including the dooryard violet, produce two kinds of flowers. The large showy flowers that people associate with the plants are common in the spring. After the showy flowers have bloomed, the plant produces small, closed flowers on short stems near the ground. These flowers look like small buds. It is these small, closed flowers that produce most of the seeds.
The showy flowers are edible. The petals are frequently covered with sugar and used as decorations on cakes.
Family: Violet (Violaceae)
Habitat: woods, meadows, waste areas
Height: 3-8 inches
Flower size: 3/4 to 1 inch wide
Flower color: blue-purple, occasionally white or bicolor
Flowering time: April to June
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