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House passes bill making the bobwhite quail state game bird

Associated Press

Jefferson City — It had to beat out some late competition from the wild turkey and the pigeon, but a bill making the bobwhite quail the state game bird flew through the House on Tuesday.

Rep. Shannon Cooper said he hoped making the quail an official state symbol would give it a publicity boost.

If approved by the Senate, the quail would be added to 20 other official state symbols, including the bluebird (the state bird), honey bee (state insect), channel catfish (state fish) and square dance (the state American folk dance).

The bill is supported by the nonprofit conservation group Quail Unlimited. The state recognition should help spur habitat renewal efforts, said Cooper, R-Clinton.

The bobwhite quail, which is also the state game bird of Georgia and Tennessee, has a distinctive whistle and colorful eye and throat patches. A biologist with the Department of Conservation told a House committee in January that the quail is important both as an insect predator and for habitat restoration.

On Tuesday, Cooper said the quail ?is found all over the state, so I think everyone will be able to relate to it.?

Rep. Barbara Fraser, D-St. Louis, saying she needed to make sure she had the right bird in mind before voting, imitated its whistle, then asked Cooper if the bobwhite quail ?is the same bird that the vice president was shooting at when he shot a lawyer by accident.?

Some House members questioned whether the bobwhite had the credentials to join the company of the ?Missouri Waltz? and Missouri fox trotting horse as official state symbols.

Rep. J.C. Kuessner, D-Eminence, ultimately voted for the quail but suggested the turkey might have been a better choice in order to recognize a wild turkey population restoration program that is one of the nation?s most successful.

Rep. Michael Daus, one of six members to vote against the bill, said he hadn?t heard enough evidence to justify giving the bobwhite quail greater stature than any other game bird.

Daus, D-St. Louis, said he hadn?t even heard of the bobwhite quail until lawmakers began discussing making it a state symbol. He said the pigeon would be far more worthy where he comes from.

?I was hoping they?d pick the pigeon because we have a huge pigeon problem in St. Louis that we?re trying to get rid of, and if we made the pigeon the state bird to get shot at, maybe we could eliminate some of them,? he said.

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