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Maine changing 'chickadee' license plate design after 25 years in use

Maine is discontinuing its iconic "chickadee" license plates, first introduced in 1999, to make way for a newer, simpler design featuring an homage to the state's old flag.

Bye-bye, birdie: Maine’s state warbler, the chickadee, is making way for other images on a new license plate that gives homage to an old flag growing in popularity and reappearing on hats, tote bags and T-shirts.

The plate unveiled Monday 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.


Many plates featuring the chickadee, a design introduced in 1999, are now peeling and delaminating, 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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