ANNAPOLIS – The Baltimore oriole could soon have a new companion.
The Baltimore Ravens National Football League team put Maryland in the Super Bowl this year. Now, through legislation introduced Thursday, Delegate Nathaniel T. Oaks, D-Baltimore, wants the raven to become Maryland’s second state bird, joining the oriole.
The Baltimore Orioles’ Major League Baseball was named after the city’s namesake bird in 1894. While the oriole didn’t become the official state bird until 1947 it was protected by the state as early as 1882.
“We have two birds, two teams and two champions,” Oaks said. “Why not honor the raven?”
Only 20 raven nests are spotted in the state every year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
Unlike the oriole, “it’s definitely not a bird that has statewide distribution,” said Glenn Therres, biodiversity supervisor at the department’s Wildlife and Heritage Division.
“As far as the real bird is concerned, Maryland is not the hot spot,” Therres said. Ravens are more common in the Rocky Mountains.
But for Oaks, it’s not just about the bird or the team mascot.
“It just happens that the raven is a black bird” and it’s Black History Month, said Oaks, a black legislator from West Baltimore. Elementary school students from his neighborhood approached him about the idea, and “in their little genius minds, they discovered this is a recognition of black strength.”
When the students in his neighborhood became aware that Maryland wanted to recognize the calico cat as its state cat, they asked if the raven could also become an official state bird, Oaks said.
“I’m just the vehicle to pass this,” Oaks said.
Allegany County fifth-graders made local headlines last month when they persuaded Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany, to introduce a bill recognizing the calico cat as the state cat.
A bill to recognize the pinxterbloom azalea as the state shrub was introduced by Sen. Ida G. Ruben, D-Montgomery, this month when Takoma Park fourth-graders lobbied her for the bill.
“Remember which one came first,” Kelly said. “I started with this. Everyone else wants to join the bandwagon on this issue.”
The House of Delegates will vote today on Kelly’s cat bill.
“Not to pass this (would be) a slap in the children’s face,” Kelly said.
But maybe adding a new official state bird is not a bad idea?
“Since the Ravens are doing so well and the Orioles so bad, maybe we need a new kind of bird,” Kelly said.
The students who approached Oaks were from Lyndhurst and Mary Rodman elementary schools in Baltimore’s Edmondson Village, Oaks said.
Even though the Baltimore Ravens’ success sparked the idea for the bill, Oaks said, “I think some black kid would have come up with this because the raven is a black bird.”
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