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Wyoming Needs a New State Bird

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

Let me start with a succinct statement: I have NOTHING against the Western Meadowlark. It is a great-looking bird with a loud, delightful song. It is easily recognized by the average non-bird person. (Though it gets confused with the Horned Lark, far more than it should.) Regardless, it is NOT the ideal bird to represent Wyoming. The Greater Sage-Grouse is. Here's why.

Greater Sage-Grouse Lek
Greater Sage-Grouse Inflating Gular Sacs on Lek / Photo: Bob Wick, BLM/Public Domain

Overuse of the Western Meadowlark as a State Bird

Let's begin with the overuse of the Western Meadowlark as a state bird. Currently, six states list the Western Meadowlark as their avian representative. Those states are Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Kansas, Oregon, and Wyoming. Yeah, Wikipedia even lists Wyoming as last. LAST! Jerks. And does Wyoming really want to share anything with a state like Kansas? KANSAS?! No, I say! Wyoming, unlike those other "meh" states, is unique. It deserves its own unique, state bird.

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Tough Wyoming Birds

Next, we are going to talk toughness. Want to know what tough looks like? Imagine a ground-dwelling species surviving all twelve months of the year, in the state of Wyoming. They do not just live in the Big Empty, they survive in the sagebrush ecosystem. The sagebrush steppe is a harsh, unforgiving hellscape that most Wyomingites avoid November through March. What does the Western Meadowlark do during those months? It runs like the little Icterid it is. (Because most breeding Icterids [Blackbirds] in Wyoming likely migrate away from the state.) Here are some graphs to illustrate this point:

Greater Sage-Grouse Frequency in Wyoming *

Western Meadowlark Frequency in Wyoming *

See that? Western Meadowlarks are fair-weather fans. They come to Wyoming for the summer fun, then flee the state as October ends. The Greater Sage-Grouse is a pillar in the Cowboy State throughout the year. (Though it is a difficult species to find outside of lek and/or chick season.)


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Residency of Greater Sage-Grouse

It's time for some numbers: where does the greatest percentage of each bird's population reside? For the Western Meadowlark's population of ~100,000,000 individuals, the state with the greatest percentage of the total population is (drumroll), Montana! Montana comes in hosting 16% of the population, while Wyoming hosts ~6.5%. That is not bad, not bad. For a true Wyoming champion, the Greater Sage-Grouse, Wyoming hosts close to 40% of the population with an estimated population between 150,000 and 450,000 individuals.

The World Needs More Sage-Grouse

I'm not making a political (or other) statement. I am poking fun at a controversy sparked by the University of Wyoming's slogan, "The World Needs More Cowboys." As for my actual point, the world needs more Greater Sage-Grouse, and not simply because we need to help a species that humans have permanently impacted. Because like Wyomingites, Greater Sage-Grouse know where to draw the line. Take a look at the two sage-grouse in the video below. They have a disagreement, it leads to a kerfuffle, they draw the line, and return to the important work at hand (mating and whatnot). Just like Wyomingites. And I'm only pandering, slightly.

Conclusions on the Wyoming State Bird

There you have it. Wyoming needs a state bird that is representative of who its residents are as a people. A representative of what it means to live in what can feel like a barren, wind tunnel. The Greater Sage-Grouse is that bird. Wyomingites unite! Announce this call to those who represent You. It is time for a change! It is time for Sage-Grouse!


Seriously, I don't actually know how to change a state bird. I'm sure there is an abundant amount of bureaucracy (or birdeaucracy), but it would be well worth it!


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Frequency Graphics: Provided by eBird ( and created March 19, 2019.


Sean Owens
Sean Owens
Mar 03, 2023

I Love listening to Meadowlarks in the summer something I've always enjoyed. I too feel that maybe a new state bird is a good thing, the Grouse is a good choice as a true Native of the State, I like The Sparrow as another choice for state bird, they are year round residents, and they show the true spirit of togetherness. Who doesn't enjoy seeing a flock of hundreds of Sparrows in the air? I think it is pretty cool. There are many choices, the Crow or Raven are other good choices they are tough year round residents that find ways to survive the winters. Maybe every county should adopt it's own Bird and Keep the Meadowlark as the State…

Replying to

Interesting choices! I think we would have to be more specific about the sparrow, but I always like picking a more obscure bird! I still feel like Wyoming would be well represented by a bird that is unaffected by blizzards, and continues it’s important work every spring, regardless of weather.


Ellis: Great question. I will have to do some digging!

Betty: Thanks for joining! I thought there was a bit of humor in posting the video with a Meadowlark in the background. I'm glad you picked up on it. I could have posted a video without it, but that wouldn't have made for as good of a joke!


Elizabeth Boehm
Elizabeth Boehm
Apr 09, 2019

I totally agree with your thoughts Zach. The Greater Sage Grouse is such a great bird and also "Wyoming Tough" not only enduring but doing well throughout our harsh winters. I did find it interesting that a Western Meadowlark was singing behind the scenes in your video!


Ellis Hein
Ellis Hein
Apr 09, 2019

Any idea how far back in history Sage-Grouse go? How does that compare with the Western Meadow Lark? Sure, we can trace birds in general back to dinosaurs, but I mean how far back do these particular species go? If there was some evidence that Sage-Grouse predated Western Meadow Lark by some millions of years, that would greatly boost your case for making it the state bird.

And, this just occurred to me. Think what it would do for protecting the Sage-Grouse and Sage-Grouse habitat if it became the state bird.

Zach is showing off gear and encouraging visitors to check out his favorite gear on his Amazon Associate page.

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