Connecticut’s varied ecosystems, from its coast to its forests, are reflected in the state’s abundant wildlife. Several species, each with its own history and important place in the local ecosystem, have been named as the state’s “official” representatives.
Let’s look at five of Connecticut state animals, exploring the characteristics, and ecological and historical importance that helped them gain the title.
5 Connecticut State Animals
1. State Animal: Sperm whale
Scientific Name: Physeter macrocephalus
Designated as Connecticut’s State Animal in 1975, the Sperm Whale holds historical significance in the state. The spermaceti oil found in the largest of the toothed whales was highly sought after for use in many products of the time, including as oil for lamps. Connecticut had the second largest whaling industry in the country in the 1800s, with whaling ships setting out from ports in Mystic and New London, among others.
The Sperm Whale has the largest brain of any known animal, and it can dive more than three thousand feet to catch its prey, such as squid. Today, it’s classified as an endangered species, serving as a reminder of the state’s past and an appeal for conserving diverse marine life.
2. State Insect: European mantis
Scientific Name: Mantis religiosa
In 1977, the European mantis was officially named the state insect of Connecticut. From early May until the cold weather sets in, you can find this praying mantis all over the state. Its native range includes Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and temperate Asia.
Although it’s not a native species, the European Mantis has achieved iconic status in the state. This insect, which can be green or brown, typically consumes aphids, flies, grasshoppers, small caterpillars, and moths, and measures between 2 and 2 1/2 inches in length. The mantis has a unique and captivating appearance, with its long body, folded arms, and alien-shaped head.
3. State Fish: American Shad
Scientific Name: Alosa sapidissima
In 2003, Connecticut officially recognized the American shad as its state fish. This fish, native to the North Atlantic coast of North America, is the largest of Connecticut’s herring species. As salmon populations declined during the Revolutionary War, the once unpopular American shad became increasingly sought after.
Despite the state’s decline in commercial fisheries due to dam construction, the Connecticut River fishery has seen a significant recovery in the past 50 years. Adult shad, which typically weighs between 1.5 and 3.5 kg, has a mild flavor that many people enjoy eating plain. Their presence symbolizes the resilience of natural ecosystems and the importance of sustainable fishing practices.
4. State Shellfish: Eastern Oyster
Scientific Name: Crassostrea virginica
In 1989, the Eastern oyster—a shellfish native to eastern North and South America—was officially recognized as the state shellfish of Connecticut. Oysters were a staple food for indigenous peoples and early European settlers in the state because they grew abundantly in Connecticut’s tidal rivers and coastal bays.
Oyster farming became a major industry by the 19th century, and the first laws regulating oyster harvesting appeared in the 1700s. The state of Connecticut’s oyster industry is thriving today, sending thousands of bushels to buyers across the country every year. Despite overfishing and water pollution, the Eastern oyster continues to play an important role in the state’s heritage, economy, and way of life.
5. State Bird: American Robin
Scientific Name: Turdus migratorius
Connecticut adopted the American Robin, a migratory thrush with a reddish-brown breast and a cheerful song, as its state bird in 1943. This bird, which the early colonists aptly named “Robin” after the European version, is widespread across North America. Some will migrate further south for the winter, but many do remain in the state year-round.
The American Robin was selected because of its close association with the environment and the passing of the seasons, as well as its abundance, visibility, and symbolic representation of cheerfulness and fortitude. As one of the earliest birds to sing at dawn, appear on lawns as the grass turns green in the spring, and lay iconic blue eggs, the American Robin symbolizes the onset of spring, fertility, and abundance.