Madison Wisconsin’s New City Bird

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Filed under: College Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief

Plastic pink flamingo voted Madison’s city bird
by Broderick Perkins of Tampa Bay
September 3, 2009

Wisconsin’s capital city alders, inspired by what’s become a historic college prank, have named the pink flamingo the city’s official bird.


Not the real feathered variety indigenous to the wilds of Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Galapagos Islands.

The plastic pink version found on lawns — good, bad and ugly — throughout America.

Madison City Council voted 15-4 this week to give a lawn decoration perhaps the first such distinction, much to the chagrin of some residents and dissenting alders.

The questionable honor was bestowed upon the kitschy ornament because of a 1979 prank by leaders of the University of Wisconsin student government’s Pail and Shovel Party.

The group organized a surprise placement of 1,008 pink plastic flamingos on Bascom Hill, a steep incline that leads to the university’s dean’s office.

Students and others later “adopted” the birds.

Resolution sponsor Alderwoman Marsha Rummel told the media the event “signifies something that makes us a very special place” and is “captured in our imaginations forever.”

Dissenting Alder Judy Compton suggested city ornithologists could have come up with a heartier bird that could survive a Wisconsin winter.

Can’t a plastic flamingo?

Footnote: The plastic pink flamingo was designed in 1957 by artist Don Featherstone (note the irony in his name) while working for Union Products.

The “artwork” became a pop culture icon and earned Featherstone the Ig Nobel Prize for Art in 1996, an award granted for achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.

The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Installing a flock of plastic pink flamingos on an unsuspecting victim’s lawn, in the middle of the night, for a while, spawned a lawn greeting industry.

Related links:

  • City’s flamingos made in Illinois
  • 17th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes Awarded
  • Flippin the Bird for a Good Cause
  • 2008 Ig Nobel Prizes Awarded at Harvard University