State symbols are often adopted after a collaborative effort by citizens to have a significant item recognized for its importance to the state. States such as Illinois, and many others began to adopt some of their own official state symbols several decades ago, and in some cases, over 100 years ago.  A state symbol can come in the form of state animals, birds, flowers, amphibians, nicknames, state seals, and much more.

Citizens, children, and educational institutions frequently research a particular symbol and make a request for a bill, tracking it all the way through the legislative process with the hope that it is enacted, and a new state symbol is announced for Illinois. Like all other states, there are many Illinois state symbols. The Illinois state bird and flower are the Violet (Viola) and the Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).

What is the Illinois State Bird?

The Illinois state bird is perhaps the most unique bird to represent any U.S. state – the beautiful Northern Cardinal. These incredible birds are hardy and tough, they are well-known for their adaptability to almost any environment and climate. This cardinal has been the official Illinois state bird since 1929 and also holds a population of 120 million. The way in which these beauties are split via their population is 78% in the U.S. and then 22% in Mexico!

Illinois state bird

Northern Cardinals are very distinctive. They are plump and small in size while also showcasing some incredible colors and patterns, with a distinctive black plume residing on their heads. Be careful if you encounter one of these birds, they are fearless and tough, literally throwing themselves at their opponents if they feel threatened.

What is the Illinois State Flower?

The famous and beautiful violet flower (Viola sp.) has been the official state flower for Illinois since 1908. These incredible purple flowers can be found growing on the prairie and on people’s lawns. They will also appear in abundance in the woods and wetlands of the state.

Illinois state flower

The reason for the adoption of state flowers was originally inspired during the 1893 World’s Fair, which was hosted in Chicago. Illinois was the first to be a part of 4 eastern states who officially adopt the violet as the state flower. The other states are New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Most states will have their symbols showcase a relevant story, that is indicative of the state and its history, and the Prairie State puts its history and what it stands for across very well in its state bird and flower.