Flip the birds campaign
If an Augusta group gets its way, we might salute the trucks that head down local streets taking our state bird to its final destination.
But a push to change Georgia’s official bird from the brown thrasher to the chicken hasn’t yet taken flight in the Poultry Capital of the World. It likely won’t ruffle legislators’ feathers, either, as this year, the state’s butchered budget takes priority.
Still, the attention the Flip the Birds Campaign brings to Georgia’s big agribusiness — and Hall County’s biggest industry — is nice, said Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Foundation.
A video on the campaign’s Web site says that "if it wasn’t for the chicken, Georgia’s economy would be in the tank." The Web site asks visitors to sign a petition in favor of the change and urges them to write their legislators.
If nothing else, the campaign seeks to give the chicken a little respect.
"So why would you want to have the brown thrasher for the state bird, who hasn’t done anything for the state other than just fly around and look good?" said a man in a video on the Web site. "And the chicken does what it does: brings all the money, employs all these people, provides jobs ..."
Giles said the campaign makes some "great points" about the importance of poultry to Georgia. And while he said he appreciates the positive attention the campaign turns on the poultry industry, Giles said he doubts the campaign will make a scratch at the Capitol.
"I’m not sure that a proposal to change the state bird from the brown thrasher would fly down here," Giles said. "... It’s a tradition, and people recognize it as the state bird. I’m just not sure that the legislature is going to spend a lot of time on an issue like that."
Two of the legislators who represent Hall County at the statehouse, Republican Reps. Doug Collins and James Mills, say no one has contacted them with a request to change the state bird. Even if they had, both say they are too concerned with the state’s budget crisis to even consider state symbols this session.
State Rep. Carl Rogers, also of Gainesville, didn’t return a call seeking comment on the issue Friday. All three representatives are on the House Appropriations Committee, which will be hunkered down for the second full week carving $1 billion from next year’s state spending plan.
"With the economy like it is, we can’t afford to let our priorities go a-fowl," Mills said. "We have to stay focused on the budget."
And though the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce has spent years praising Hall County’s poultry industry, Chamber President Kit Dunlap says there are more important things going on right now, like transportation, water and the proposed hospital "bed tax."
"Those are the important things right now," Dunlap said. "I doubt if we take on the bird."
The chamber is famous for the "chicken" boxes it sends to legislators each year, and a pin depicting a chicken rowing was highly sought after during the 1996 Olympic games, Dunlap said.
"We do tend to take off on our chickens," she said.
But even if the state’s bird did change to the chicken, it may not do much for Gainesville’s tourism. No one likely plans trips to Georgia based on the state symbols, said Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"They’re not like, ‘I’m going to come from Ohio just to see a live oak tree and a brown thrasher,’" Dickson said.
The change, if it ever happened, would only mean something locally, she said.
"I would say for Gainesville and Hall County that certainly would be a feather in our cap, so to speak, to have the state bird changed to that," Dickson said. "... If that’s what got decided, we certainly would be able to capitalize on it in our area."