Groundhog Day

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Birmingham Bill
Birmingham Jill
Bilbo the owl

Groundhog Day is a traditional observation introduced to North American by Pennsylvania Dutch communities in New England. It has its roots in European customs regarding the portents of atmospheric conditions and badger behavior around Candlemas, a Christian feast day observed on February 2 to remember the presentation of Christ at the temple.

According to the tradition, if the badger or groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

In the United States, media attention is mostly focused on the prediction made by "Punxsutawney Phil," one of a series of groundhogs whose appearance in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is became a formal event in 1887, and is currently managed and promoted by an organization called the "Inner Circle". Many cities hold their own similar events.

In 1909 Birmingham Weather Bureau Official In Charge W. F. Lehman was reported to have procured "a very intelligent and reliable looking animal to pass on the weather for the next six weeks."

The Birmingham Zoo began holding an annual Groundhog Day event in 1990 with "Birmingham Bill" as the center of attention. The original Bill died in 1996 and the zoo has used a series of stand-ins. In 2018 the zoo announced that in order not to interrupt the hibernation of a groundhog, it would use other species for the event. Since then it has featured "Birmingham Jill", a Virginia opossum, and "Bilbo", an owl. In 2022 the zoo made reference to its resident groundhog "Jamie Bill" as continuing to hibernate. No public event was held that year.

Groundhog Day predictions

  • 2023: Birmingham Jill
  • 2022: Birmingham Bill, also called Jamie Bill, was hibernating and not disturbed. No event was held.
  • 2021: Birmingham Jill the opossum, saw her shadow
  • 2020: Bilbo, a Eurasian eagle-owl, saw his shadow
  • 2019: Birmingham Bill continued to hibernate. Birmingham Jill, an opossum substitute, saw her shadow
  • 2018: saw shadow
  • 2017: did not see shadow
  • 2016: saw shadow
  • 2015: no prediction
  • 2014: did not see shadow
  • 2013: did not see shadow
  • 2012: saw shadow, but the remainder of winter had record warm temperatures
  • 2011: saw shadow
  • 2010: no shadow
  • 2009: saw shadow
  • 2008:
  • 2007:
  • 2006: saw shadow (on January 28)
  • 2005: did not see shadow
  • 2004: did not see shadow
  • 2003:
  • 2002:
  • 2001: saw shadow
  • 2000: saw shadow
  • 1999: saw shadow
  • 1998:
  • 1997: did not see shadow
  • 1996: did not see shadow
  • 1995: saw shadow
  • 1994:
  • 1993:
  • 1992:
  • 1991:
  • 1990:


See also