Red-winged blackbird wins city recognition

The red-winged blackbird is being proposed to be Cannon Beach's official "city bird."

After months in limbo, the red-winged blackbird will take the title of Cannon Beach’s official city bird.

City councilors brought the proposal to a work session June 12 after voting to postpone a proclamation last month that would have promoted the medium-sized, black-and-red songbird. The idea was to give the public a chance to raise any concerns over the pick, or to suggest a different species.

But alas ­— the tufted puffin lobby was silent.

“Is there anyone here on behalf of the puffins?” City Councilor George Vetter asked with a smile.

Nominating the red-winged blackbird was brought to the city council in April by Neal Maine, a longtime nature photographer and representative of the 12 Days of Earth Day committee. The group wanted the city to recognize an official bird to honor the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a landmark federal law that protects dozens of species of birds. This bird was chosen because they are abundant and represent the local ecology, Maine said. Recognizing the birds would also hold historical value as many live on the Little Pompey Wetland - a marsh named after the son of Sacagawea from the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Cannon Beach Elementary School fifth-graders more than 20 years ago.

Part of the reason councilors delayed the proclamation was in response to some in the community asking why the town’s iconic bird — the tufted puffin — was not chosen. The council asked Maine if puffins were considered.

“No, we didn’t really consider the puffin. It wasn’t about the puffin,” Maine said. “Though it has been portrayed as a kind of battle of the birds.”

Maine reiterated that the committee believes the red-winged blackbird deserves the visibility more than the elusive tufted puffin, which only nest on Haystack Rock a few months a year. The bird will always be an icon and already has the Haystack Rock Awareness Program protecting their interests, Maine said.

Without hearing any strong objections, the council unanimously decided to schedule the proclamation for next month.

For Mayor Sam Steidel, the tension between the red-winged blackbird and tufted puffin was described succinctly in a letter from a former Cannon Beach Elementary School student who was a part of the Little Pompey Wetland project.

“Puffins are second homeowners,” Steidel quoted from the letter. “But the red-winged blackbirds are the residents.”

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