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Raven Just Doesn't Fly as Second State Bird

The raven will not join the oriole as state bird. (Photo copyright Gavin Scott)
By Laurent Thomet
Capital News Service
Wednesday, March 14, 2001

ANNAPOLIS - The raven will not fly with the Baltimore oriole after all.

A House panel Tuesday killed a proposal to make the raven the second state bird, joining the Baltimore oriole.

The House Commerce and Government Matters Committee split 10-10 with one delegate absent during Tuesday's voting session.

The raven got its boost as a state symbol after the National Football League Baltimore Ravens won the Superbowl in January. The Ravens' playoff success spawned violet-hued suits and official team jerseys worn on the floor of the General Assembly.

But the state bird bid isn't having the same super success as either the football team or another bill this session to name the calico cat as the state's official feline, which passed the House but is stalled in the Senate.

A proposal to make the Patuxent River agate the state gem, however, died Tuesday in committee with the raven.

"We don't need another bird," said Delegate John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, who voted against the proposal. "People don't know the difference between the raven and another black bird."

But the raven is not just another bird, nor merely the mascot of Baltimore's NFL team, said Delegate Nathaniel T. Oaks, D-Baltimore. It's also a symbol of black strength.

"The problem is that it's a black bird," said Oaks, a black legislator from West Baltimore who sponsored the measure. "And the state is not ready for a black bird."

However, it's a rare bird in Maryland. Only 20 raven nests are spotted in the state every year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

"That's right. No one knows it exists," Arnick said.

But at least one supporter thinks it deserves special recognition.

"We should honor the raven by giving it the same status as the oriole," said Delegate Maggie L. McIntosh, D-Baltimore County.

But since the raven is so rare in the state, she said, it might have a better chance of becoming a state symbol in another category: state poem. And the prime candidate for this honor would be "The Raven," by one-time Baltimore resident Edgar Allan Poe.

Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism.

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