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What Is the State Bird of Rhode Island?

Rhode Island chicken

Rhode Island is a northeastern state with 1,545 square miles of wetlands, towns, woodlands, and scenic coastal habitats. More than a million people live there and share these beautiful places with nearly 450 bird species.

Rhode Island state bird, however, is the Rhode Island Red, a domesticated chicken breed.


State Bird of Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Red (Gallus gallus domesticus) became the state bird of Rhode Island on May 3, 1954. On this date, the Rhode Island legislature voted to choose this bird to be an official state symbol.

Like in other states, the process of choosing a state bird was sponsored by local birding and garden clubs. In Rhode Island’s case, the Providence Journal Company also played an important role.

Unlike most states, Rhode Island picked a breed of domestic chicken to represent the state instead of a wild bird. Although there was support for choosing the Osprey and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, they still settled on the Rhode Island Red.

Although it might seem odd to pick a chicken to be a state bird, this poultry breed has played an important role in Rhode Island since the late 1800s.

During that time, the breed was developed in Rhode Island or at nearby farms in southern Massachusetts.

No matter where the breed first came into being, it became known as the Rhode Island Red because it was especially popular and economically important in the state. No doubt, state legislators took these factors into account when picking it to be the state bird. They must have also took pride in the bird’s name!


Other State Symbols

  • Bird: As we already learned, Rhode Island Red carries the title of state bird.
  • Coral: Northern Star Coral (Astrangia poculata) was chosen as the state coral in 2021.
  • Fish: Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis) was honored in 2000.
  • Flower: Violet (Viola sororia) has been a state symbol almost as long as the Rhode Island Red, starting from 1968.
  • Insect: Rhode Island’s state insect is the American Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus americanus).
  • Tree: The honorable title is carried by Red Maple (Acer rubrum).
  • Shell: Quahaug (Mercenaria mercenaria)


Fun Facts about Rhode Island Reds

  • The Rhode Island Red Chicken was bred to be a robust and adaptable chicken that could lay a lot of eggs and still act as a source of meat. They can lay 200 to 300 eggs per year!
  • Rhode Island Reds work well as a free-range chicken and as basic backyard chickens.
  • This Rhode Island Red was created by breeding Italian Leghorn chickens and chickens from southeastern Asia. Using chickens from Asia gave Rhode Island Reds their distinctive reddish coloration. This plumage and their general appearance make them look a lot like the original wild chicken, the “Red Junglefowl”.
  • Traditional strains of the Rhode Island Red are considered to be somewhat threatened. Since industrial chicken farms use other chicken breeds, there has been less demand to keep the Rhode Island Red breed going.
  • Rhode Island is not the only state that has chosen a domesticated chicken breed to symbolize their state – Delaware has followed a similar path!
  • This chicken strain has also been known as “Tripp’s Fowl” or “The Macomber”. These names stem from a sea captain named “Tripp” who created a chicken breed that eventually became the Rhode Island Red.
  • Rhode Island Reds are more tolerant of cold weather than many other chicken breeds. Even so, to survive, they still need a warm chicken coop.
  • For the most part, this chicken breed is calm and very easy to work with. Many don’t mind being picked up and won’t even peck you.



In common with all chickens, the Rhode Island Red is a domesticated descendant of the Red Jungle Fowl (Gallus gallus). However, although many chickens look quite different from their wild ancestor, the Rhode Island Red looks fairly similar to the Red Junglefowl.

The male Rhode Island Red is a robust, two-foot-long rooster with strong legs and a proud, upright stance. Like the Red Junglefowl, it also has a prominent rose-red comb and reddish wattles on its face. It has red-brown coloration overall, with long, shiny neck hackles, and glossy green highlights on its wings and tail.

Female Rhode Island Reds have a similar red-brown coloration but aren’t as glossy as the male. They are also a bit smaller, weighing 6.5 pounds. Males, on the other hand, weigh 8.6 pounds. The hen’s comb and wattles are also smaller.

As with other domesticated chickens, Rhode Island Reds have short, rounded wings. Their wingspan is around 28 to 30 inches but they don’t really fly. However, they can flutter up to perches. Their wild ancestors also rarely fly but can do so when alarmed. Like a grouse, they can fly short distances with rapid wingbeats.


What do Rhode Island Reds eat?

Rhode Island Red chickens feed on a variety of insects, invertebrates, and other small animals. They also like to forage for grain, fruit, and other bits of food. Similar to other types of domesticated chickens, many Rhode Island Reds also eat chicken feed and occasional fruits and vegetables.

However, many Rhode Island Reds are free range chickens. These types of chickens form small groups that walk in semi-wooded or open places.

As they move around, the birds constantly watch for insects, small creatures, and other bits of food. When they notice something to eat, they quickly run over and pick it up with their beak.

These chickens love to feed on grasshoppers, other insects, and worms along with other small creatures.

Similar to other roosters and hens, Rhode Island Reds frequently forage by using their feet to scratch the ground. They do this to scare insects and other bugs into the open. When they scratch the ground, they can also reveal bits of grain and seeds.

If a Rhode Island Red can flutter into a bush, it will also pick berries and other small fruits. However, they mostly eat fruit that they find on the ground.



Rhode Island state birds make calls that sound like other types of chickens and are a very vocal chicken breed. While socializing and doing other things, both sexes make typical clucking vocalizations. Males also sing the classic “cock-a-doodle-doo!” song.



This species typically occurs in small flocks. We usually find them in small, free-range groups that forage on small farms. In the wild, chickens form small flocks composed of hens and just one or maybe a couple of males.

These birds spend a lot of their time scratching the ground and leaf litter, while one of them keeps an eye out for predators. They have to keep a close watch because hawks, foxes, and many other carnivores love to eat chickens!

If the sentinel bird spots a predator, it gives an alarm call, and the flock runs or flies to cover.

Female Rhode Island Reds typically lay their eggs in chicken coop nests. However, their wild ancestors make shallow scrapes on the ground, often in second-growth or bamboo forest. They lay five to six eggs and, shortly after they hatch, bring the nestlings to foraging areas.

Similar to other chickens, rooster Rhode Island Reds can fight each other. They naturally do this to drive the other male from their territory.

When they fight, male Rhode Island Reds can kick and use their leg spurs. They also peck at their opponent while beating their wings.


Common Birds In RI

While you can’t see Rhode Island’s state bird in the wild, there are plenty of birds you can see. Here are the ones that stand out the most:

  • Song Sparrows
  • American Robins
  • Northern Cardinals
  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Herring Gulls
  • Blue Jays
  • American Crows

See more – most common birds of Rhode Island


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the state bird of Rhode Island?

The state bird of Rhode Island is the Rhode Island Red.

Why is the Rhode Island Red the state bird of Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Red is the state bird of Rhode Island because it has played a significant role in the state’s local culture and economy for well over 100 years.

When did Rhode Island choose its state bird?

Rhode Island chose its state bird on May 3, 1954.

What is Rhode Island’s state animal?

Rhode Island’s state animal is the Harbor Seal.

What is the state flower of Rhode Island?

The state flower of Rhode Island is the Common Blue Violet.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

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