Students at the University of Illinois last week voted in favor of adopting the Belted Kingfisher, an orange and blue bird native to the state, as the school’s mascot.
The idea originated with senior physics and astronomy student Spencer Hulsey, who recalled seeing the birds near the pond at her childhood home in Kinmundy, Illinois. She created a design and posted it online, where it caught the attention of the Illinois Student Government.
A non-binding referendum asking whether the school should make the Belted Kingfisher its new mascot was then included in the student election ballot, and it passed by a vote of 4,222 to 3,597. With 7,819 votes, it was the most voted-on item on the ballot this year.
A similar vote was held last year for a mascot named Alma Otter, but that was defeated by a vote of 3,807 to 3,510.
The results of this year’s vote will be shared with university administrators, including chancellor Robert Jones, who would decide if they want to adopt the Belted Kingfisher as the school’s new mascot. It’s worth noting a new mascot would not replace the Fighting Illini nickname but would act as a replacement to the Chief Illiniwek mascot banned by the NCAA in 2005.
If adopted, the Belted Kingfisher would not only be unique to college athletics, it would also be the first female mascot in the Big Ten (males do not have an orange belt on their belly as the females do).
Photos via the University of Illinois and @audubonsociety on Twitter.