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Bye-bye, birdie: Maine’s chickadee makes way for state tree and North Star on new license plate

This image provided by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office shows Maine’s new license plate which is being unveiled Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 and gives a nod to the state’s first official flag with a simple pine tree and star. (Maine Secretary of State’s Office via AP)

This image provided by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office shows Maine’s new license plate which is being unveiled Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 and gives a nod to the state’s first official flag with a simple pine tree and star. (Maine Secretary of State’s Office via AP)

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AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Bye-bye birdie: Maine’s chickadee is making way for other images on a new license plate unveiled Monday that gives homage to an old flag growing in popularity and reappearing on hats, tote bags and T-shirts.

The plate features a tall green pine — the state tree — and the North Star, icons featured on the state’s first official flag in 1901. Maine residents will vote in November on whether to adopt a similar design for a new state flag.

The design featuring the chickadee, Maine’s state bird, was introduced in 1999 and now many plates that have it are peeling and in need of replacement.

“Public safety is the No. 1 reason we’re retiring the chickadee plate and replacing it with a pine tree today. But we also love the new design,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows told reporters at the unveiling ceremony.

The chickadee flew in to replace a license plate featuring a crustacean that critics said looked more like a cooked crawdad than a Maine lobster, the state’s signature seafood. The Bureau of Motor Vehicles won’t have to worry as much about criticism with the new plate; motorists have the option of requesting a plate without a design.

Rekindled interest in Maine’s first official flag coincided with the state’s bicentennial in 2020. The flag was used for eight years before being replaced by the current banner, a coat of arms on a blue background.

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The first paragraph has been edited to delete an incorrect reference to “warbler.”