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No buck, no cluck; Keep the thrasher
Courier editorial
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The news in Georgia has gone to the birds. Literally. The latest big debate in the state isn’t centered on how lawmakers are tackling the much-hyped $1 billion budget hole or even how the Atlanta Braves look at spring training. The campaign creating the most buzz isn’t political in nature — it’s ornithological.
Recently, Augusta resident Chris Cunningham launched an effort to change Georgia’s official state bird from the brown thrasher to the chicken. Cunningham is the owner of (what else?) a regional chain of fried chicken eateries. The poultry enthusiast is convinced that chicken has done for the state of Georgia what it has done for him — paid the bills.
Although the campaign, which you can check out online at, has ruffled a few feathers, it’s easy to understand Cunningham’s reasoning. According to University of Georgia statistics published in a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer article, the chicken industry sustains more than 100,000 jobs in the state. In 2006, its combined direct and indirect economic effect was $18.4 billion.
That said, does it always have to be about money? Imagine if the whole state — or even the nation — embraced this mentality. If we’re talking dollar signs, pine trees have arguably made more money for Georgia, through the timber industry, than live oaks. Perhaps we should ditch the live oak and adopt the pine as the state tree. Forget that the branches of live oaks, draped in Spanish moss, form beautiful canopies over roads throughout Georgia. Forget that the solid, majestic tree flourishes along the coastal plains and islands where the first Georgia colonists made their homes. Forget the tree’s role in history. What has it done for us lately?
And let’s not even get started on the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Is the government collecting royalties on the tune every time a high school choir belts it out during a small-town Fourth of July parade? According to Wikipedia, the highest-grossing U.S. concert tour of all time was the Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang” tour in 2005-07. Each city that hosted a leg of that tour likely made a pretty penny. Congress should probably consider legislation to make “Start Me Up” the new national anthem.
So, Georgia, pass on the buck and the cluck. According to, the brown thrasher has reigned as our state bird unofficially since 1935 and officially since 1970. Let’s keep it that way.

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