JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri hunters know the bobwhite quail for its distinctive whistle and colorful eye and throat patches.
The rest of the state could soon make the bobwhite's acquaintance. The House Tourism Committee has unanimously approved a bill to make the bobwhite quail Missouri's official game bird.
The bill's sponsor is Republican house member Shannon Cooper of Clinton, who says adding the game bird as an official state symbol could boost species conservation and restoration work. Missouri's bobwhite quail population was once 13 million but has significantly declined.
Biologists say the bird plays a crucial role in habitat restoration and is a valued insect predator.
Missouri's official bird since 1927 is the bluebird. The state also boasts an official tree (flowering dogwood), mineral (galena), insect (honeybee), musical instrument (fiddle), dinosaur (hadrosaur) and, most recently, amphibian (American bullfrog), among other things.
The bullfrog joined the list of state icons last year, thanks to efforts by a fourth-grade class at Chinn Elementary School in Kansas City.
The quail bill is HB1157.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)