Seldom do I rise to praise postage stamps. But that new series showing each state's official bird and flower is terrific.

Not only are the stamps pretty (which is more than you can say for a fire pumper or Franklin Delano Roosevelt's face), but if you're not careful, you might learn something from them.

Ruth Thaler of Northwest learned quite a bit. "As you can see," she writes, "it doesn't take much to distract me from my work." The evidence: a half page of typed, single-spaced "did-you-know" items that Ruth culled from a careful study of the bird-flower stamps.

Did you know that seven states claim the cardinal as their official bird? They are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. Interestingly, the list doesn't include Missouri, which the football and baseball Cardinals claim as home.

Did you know that one state has such an inferiority complex that its bird is named in part for another state? The shrinking violet is Utah. Its state bird is the California gull.

Did you know that the names of four official state birds contain the name of the state itself? The homebreds: Rhode Island reds, California quail, Hawaiian goose and South Carolina's Carolina wren.

Three more from this corner:

Did you know that the official bird in Iowa is the eastern goldfinch, and the official bird in Missouri is the eastern bluebird? Whoever said that geographical distinctions in the United States are beginning to blur must have been a stamp nut -- or an ornithologist.

Did you know that only Massachusetts has a state flower with obvious historical significance? The Bay State's blooming favorite: the Mayflower. Hey, the ship didn't land in Plymouth, Mont., y'know.

And if you're as worn out as I am from the recent deliberations of the D.C. statehood convention, you'll be relieved to know this:

If and when the District becomes a state, it already has an official bird and an official flower. They're the wood thrush and the American beauty rose, respectively.