With so many bird species in New England, why did Rhode Island select a chicken for its official state bird?

Good question, eh?

Connecticut has the American Robin as its state bird. Maine honors the chickadee; Massachusetts, the black-capped chickadee. New Hampshire selected the purple finch and Vermont, the hermit thrush.

Rhode Island elevated a chicken to the roost, but not just any old chicken – the Rhode Island Red.

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According to RhodeIsland.gov, "In 1954, a state bird election was sponsored by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, The Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs, and the Providence Journal Company."

The site says, "The Rhode Island Red beat out its closest competitors, the osprey, and ruby-throated hummingbird, and became Rhode Island's official state bird at noon on May 3, 1954."

"The Rhode Island Red," Governor Dennis J. Roberts said upon signing the bill into law, "has become a symbol of Rhode Islanders all over the world."

So what gives with this bird?

Is The Rhode Island State Bird Really A Chicken?
Getty Images

The Rhode Island Red is an American breed of domestic chicken. It was developed in Rhode Island and Massachusetts in the late 19th century by cross-breeding birds of Asian origins, such as the Malay, Cochin, Java, and Shanghai, and the Leghorn found in Italy.

Raised both for its meat and for its eggs, the Rhode Island Red hovers between "recovery" and "threatened" with The Livestock Conservancy.

A monument honoring the Rhode Island Red was erected at the William Tripp Farm in Little Compton, Rhode Island in 1954.

The Providence Reds, later to be known as the Rhode Island Reds, played in the Canadian-American Hockey League and then the American Hockey League from 1926-1977. The Rhode Island Reds of the New England Collegiate Basketball League were later known as the Riverpoint Royals.

The Rhode Island Reds is a semi-professional men's soccer team competing in the Atlantic Conference of NSPL.

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