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Mississippi State Waterfowl

Wood Duck Aix sponsa Adopted: April 12, 1974
Mississippi state waterfowl
Mississippi State Waterfowl: Wood Duck Pair

There are a few things that we are not clear about regarding the legislation declaring the wood duck Mississippi's state waterfowl.

We do know that it was one of five state symbols designated by and adopted by Senator Don Strider's Senate Bill No. 2324 (SB2324).

SB2324 was a broad measure that initially proposed four, and finally delivered five, symbolic designations for the State of Mississippi.

It's not clear to us how SB2324 originated but reporting implies that it had the backing of Governor Bill Waller.

According to newspaper reporting on the subject, it appears that the original version of SB2324 offered four proposals for Mississippi officialdom;

  • the white-tailed deer, state land mammal;
  • the bottlenosed dolphin, state water mammal;
  • the largemouth bass, state fish;
  • and the angel wing, state shell.

The wood duck was not one of the recommended designations on the original senate bill.

Hashed out in the Senate, SB2324 went through some changes before it was approved and forwarded to the Mississippi House.

A serious proposal to replace the white-tailed deer with the red fox was defeated along with a long list of mostly facetious suggestions.

Proposals to designate the cottonmouth moccasin the state's official snake, the black widow the state's official spider, the earthworm the state worm, the vampire bat the official bat, the hermit crab the official crab, the speckled trout the state's saltwater fish all met with chuckles but were not seriously considered. It was even suggested that the mosquito might be named the state insect or the wharf rat might be named the official state rodent.

Mississippi state waterfowl
Mississippi State Waterfowl: Male Wood Duck

In exasperation, Senator Dan Ford suggested forming an official study group to consider potential candidates for state officialdom.

One addition, however, was made in the Senate before passing SB2324 on to the House. Pyrite was proposed as Mississippi's official state mineral.

After the Senate treatment of the bill, some members of the Mississippi House proceeded to take a few whacks at it.

House lawmakers successfully voted to strip from the bill the proposal to designate pyrite the official state mineral of Mississippi.

Members of the House also successfully replaced the white-tailed deer with the red fox as state land mammal.

It also appears, though we have scant documentation, that in the House, two other changes took place.

  • The oyster shell was substituted for the angel wing as official state shell
  • and the designation of the wood duck as the state waterfowl was added to the bill.

The wood duck entered the process as a change made by the Mississippi House to Senate Bill No. 2324.

The bill, approved by the House, was different than that which had been received from the Senate. Because of changes made in the House, the bill had to be returned to the Senate for their agreement or not.

Based on newspaper reports, SB2324, as approved by the House and sent back to the Senate proposed the following;

  • the red fox as the state land mammal;
  • the bottlenosed dolphin as the state water mammal;
  • the largemouth bass as the state fish;
  • the oyster shell as the state shell;
  • and the wood duck as the state waterfowl.

Once received in the Senate, the red fox was dismissed again.

Evidently the oyster shell and the wood duck were acceptable and the final approved bill offered Governor Waller a chance to add five new symbols to the Mississippi state roster. As sent to Gov. Waller Senate Bill No. 2324 proposed the following designations.

Mississippi State Waterfowl: Wood Duck
Courtesy of BirdCinema.com

Section 1 offered the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)as the state land mammal.

Section 2 offered the bottlenosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), commonly known as the porpoise the state water mammal.

Section 3 offered the largemouth bass ( Micropterus salmoides ) as the state fish.

Section 4 offered the oyster shell as the state shell.

Section 5 offered the wood duck (Aix sponsa) as the state waterfowl.

A state land mammal (white-tailed deer), a state water mammal (bottlenosed dolphin), a state fish (largemouth bass), a state shell (oyster), and a state waterfowl (wood duck) were all added to Mississippi's list of official symbols when Governor Bill Waller signed Senate Bill No. 2324 of April 12, 1974.

Note: The cunning red fox, biding its time, was designated Mississippi's second official land mammal in 1997.


Associated Press. "Senate Approves Official Mineral." Hattiesburg American 14 Feb. 1974: 15. Print.

"CHAPTER 3. STATE BOUNDARIES, HOLIDAYS, AND STATE EMBLEMS." Mississippi Code of 1972 Unannotated. LexisNexis, a Division of Reed Elsevier Inc. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Hoseman, Delbert, Secretary of State, comp. Mississippi 2012-2016 Official & Statistical Record: Blue Book. Jackson: Mississippi Secretary of State, 2012. 2012-2016. Mississippi Secretary of State. State of Mississippi. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

Saggus, James. "State House Kills Item to Proposed Mineral Symbol." Hattiesburg American 13 Mar. 1974: 15. Print.

Shearer, Benjamin F. and Barbara S. State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols: A Historical Guide Third Edition, Revised and Expanded. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 3 Sub edition, 2001.

"The State Waterfowl." Mississippi's Official State Website. The State of Mississippi. Web. 12 Apr. 2016.

United Press International. "Deer Edges Fox; Dolphin Surfaces." Southeast Mississippi Sun [Biloxi-GuIfport-Pascagoula] 13 Feb. 1974: 1. Print.

United Press International. "Solons Tap Deer for Honor." Southeast Mississippi Sun [Biloxi-GuIfport-Pascagoula] 3 Apr. 1974: 2. Print.

Additional Information

Woodlink Cedar Wood Duck House
Woodlink Cedar Wood Duck House

The State Waterfowl: Mississippi's official state website.

Wood Duck: All about birds from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Wood Duck: Facts, figures, description and photograph from Ducks Unlimited.

Aix sponsa (Wood Duck): University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.

Wood Ducks in Mississippi: Mississippi State University Extension Service.

A New Nest Box for Wood Ducksadobe document: Instructions for building a wood duck nesting box from Mississippi's State University Forest & Wildlife Research Center.

Waterfowl: Mississippi State University Extension Service: Wildlife & Fisheries Extention.

Waterfowl Program: Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Aix sponsa (Wood Duck): The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology: Animal Diversity Web.

Aix sponsa - (Linnaeus, 1758), Wood Duck: A network connecting science with conservation - NatureServe Explorer: An Online Encyclopedia of Life.

Aix sponsa (Linnaeus, 1758): Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) Here you will find authoritative taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes of North America and the world.

State waterfowl: Complete list of official state waterfowl from NETSTATE.COM

More symbols & emblems: Complete list of official Mississippi state symbols from NETSTATE.COM.

Bird Feeders and Accessories: Backyard Birding > Bird Feeders & Accessories from Amazon.com.

The Little Wood Duck
The Little Wood Duck
Brian Wildsmith

The Little Wood Duck, by Brian Wildsmith. 32 pages. Publisher: Star Bright Books (January 15, 2007) Reading level: 4-7 Years.

Mother Wood Duck's children are excellent swimmers-all but one, who can only swim in circles because one foot is larger than the other. A charming story that will teach children an important lesson about individuality.

My Little Book of Wood Ducks
My Little Book
of Wood Ducks

Hope Irvin Marston

My Little Book of Wood Ducks, by Hope Irvin Marston (Author), Maria Magdalena Brown (Illustrator). 32 pages. Publisher: Windward Publishing; 2nd edition (June 2003)

My Little Book of Wood Ducks is a delightful story about a new family of wood ducks. From the mother duck's wait for her eggs to hatch to the fuzzy babies' first adventures tumbling out of the nest and into the pond, this beautifully illustrated book is ideal for introducing young children to the wonders of nature.

Wood Duck Adventures
Wood Duck Adventures
F. Eugene Hester

Wood Duck Adventures, by F. Eugene Hester. 44 pages. Publisher: Five Valleys Press (February 1, 2012)

The wood duck is our most beautiful of all waterfowl, and for fifty years F. Eugene Hester observed and recorded their exciting lives. He and his companions erected wood duck nest boxes and observed nesting activities. By banding the ducks and applying web tags to ducklings, they gained interesting and unexpected insight into the lives of these ducks. Excellent photography enhance the observations.

The World of the Wood Duck
The World of
the Wood Duck

F. Eugene Hester

The World of the Wood Duck, by F. Eugene Hester. 160 pages. Publisher: Lippincott; 1st edition (1973)

The World of the Wood Duck offers in depth and well researched finformation on this most beautiful waterfowl with many photographs throughout. This book, by F. Eugene Hester, writer, photographer, wood duck researcher and former professor at North Carolina State University, covers all aspects of the ducks' lives including behavior, migratory patterns, eating habits, molts, nesting, predation and mortality plus much more.

Ecology and Management of the Wood Duck
Ecology and Management
of the Wood Duck

Frank C. Bellrose
Daniel J. Holm

Ecology and Management of the Wood Duck, Frank C. Bellrose, Daniel J. Holm. 624 pages. Publisher: Stackpole Books; 1st edition (April 1, 1994)

This important book--carefully written, edited, and designed to be of interest to anyone intrigued with waterfowl generally or wood ducks specifically--is the product of nearly a half century of devoted study by Dr. Bellrose and nearly a decade of manuscript preparation. The Bellrose-Holm teamwork has culminated in one of the most thorough, insightful, and authoritative books ever written on any wildlife species.

Why Ducks Do That
Why Ducks Do That
Chuck Petrie

Why Ducks Do That, by Chuck Petrie. 96 pages. Publisher: Willow Creek Press (May 1, 2006)

Why Ducks Do That answers many of the common, and some not-so-common, questions about the waterfowl species that share our world.

The insightful text of waterfowl biologist Chuck Petrie is paired with beautiful color photographs by the nation's leading wildlife photographers, making this book a delightful read for anyone who ponders the life of birds.