FanPost

Birds for Every Big Ten School!

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I am both a college sports nerd and a bird nerd. So when I saw that the University of Illinois student body voted to approve the Belted Kingfisher as its new mascot I got very excited. And since literally everyone else on the internet hates this decision, I thought it would be fun to change all of the Big Ten’s mascots to birds!

Illinois

They got the ball rolling, and they are also first alphabetically. Great! The Belted Kingfisher is a solid choice for all the reasons people are complaining about, and I applaud the Illini. But there is actually a better option that was missed: American Kestrel. They also sport the blue and orange scheme, are found all over the state and in open country in particular, and they are a more classic bird of prey in that they are falcons. This may be too complimentary to Illinois, but they get kudos for the idea.

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Indiana

The Hoosiers are known for doing one thing well, even if many of their competitors can do it better. That is why I am giving Indiana the tree cavity specialist Red-bellied Woodpecker, a striped red-and-white bird that can be found in the hills all over the southern part of the state.

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Iowa

Yellow and black with cornfields. Iowa has a couple of good options. The obvious choice is Eastern Meadowlark since they can be found anywhere in the state year-round and are probably familiar to lots of farm kids. But just think of how great it would be if we went instead with Dickcissel.

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Maryland

It has that association with water, and it has a color scheme that is all over the place. Only one thing works here: Horned Grebe. This bird is also super specialized in that it can swim and dive extremely well (basketball, lacrosse), but it is physically incapable of walking on land (football).

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Michigan

What’s the most important thing about Michigan sports? The color scheme? The pointless arguing and speculation about unimportant aspects of the program? Well then have I got a bird for you, Wolverines! Meet the Northern Parula. It’s got your colors, sure, but it also has something you can argue about on internet message boards: is it pronounced "pah-ROO-la" or "PAIR-you-la"? Who cares!

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Michigan State

What is big, slow, green, found throughout the Great Lakes, and generally less interesting than its close relatives? A Mallard.

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Minnesota

Minnesota relishes its northern position, and its teams can come from literally nowhere to compete for titles without previously being on anybody’s radar. Please welcome the new Minnesota mascot: the Common Redpoll! These are arctic birds that are highly irruptive, unpredictably flocking to the Midwest in high numbers during some winters while being non-existent in others.

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Nebraska

Historic success is greatly diminished in modern times. We’re in the heartland. We’re working with the color red. The Huskers’ spirit animal is the Greater Prairie-Chicken. And before you boo and hiss about this choice too much, please know that there is also a Lesser Prairie-Chicken.

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Northwestern

The nerd school of the Big Ten seems like it would have an obvious choice, but contrary to popular belief owls are actually kind of dumb. So instead we’ll go with an option befitting a university full of kids with book smarts: the American Crow. They’re kind of purplish in the sun, plus they represent one of the smartest families of birds, and you can see them in Chicago easily. Bonus points: there is also a species called the Northwestern Crow.

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Ohio State

Obnoxious, ubiquitous, and evolutionarily successful in that they are the most common bird in North America. Ohio State is 100% a Red-winged Blackbird, and this Buckeye is totally okay with that.

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Penn State

Big, loud, blue, and found throughout the hills of Pennsylvania, the Blue Jay gives Penn State a bird to match its reputation. Plus the syllables work with the "We Are" chant. I really wanted to be more sarcastic to this school, but I’ll go with what works.

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Purdue

We already have a super obscure mascot here, so let’s keep the black-and-gold train going and call them Bobolinks. These are birds of the fields befitting northwest Indiana, plus they are one of the species in steepest decline nationally, mirroring the fortunes of most Boilermaker athletic programs.

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Rutgers

The Eskimo Curlew likely went extinct in the 1960s. But there are a handful of people holding on to hope that the species might still exist out there somewhere.

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wisconsin

This state is almost single-handedly responsible for saving one particular species from extinction, and it suits them well. The Whooping Crane has prominent red on its head. The name starts with a W. Plus, they do a weird hopping dance that looks eerily similar to Jump Around.

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