The Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would allow Marylanders to send in an extra contribution with their state income tax returns to pay for programs to protect endangered species and clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Approval of the bill, jokingly named the "chickadee checkoff" by opponents, came after the upper house defeated an amendment that was obviously offered tongue-in-cheek by Sen. Raymond E. Beck (R-Carroll) that would have extended the check-off program to 16 other charities, including the U.S. Olympic Fund, and a fund for the future repairs of the Statue of Liberty.

Sen. Julian L. Lapides (D-Baltimore) joked that Beck's list did not go far enough. "I'm just wondering if you would mind adding another group -- The National Hepatitis Foundation," he quipped, referring to the recent illness of Sen. Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery), who favors the bill.

Supporters noted that the program has succeeded in 32 other states.

The bill would allow taxpayers to contribute any amount by placing a dollar figure in a box on the tax form.

The bill is expected to be up for a final vote in the Senate later this week. The Senate has passed similar measures in the past, but the House rejected them.