Birmingham Jill, an opossum, will take center stage on Groundhog Day at the Zoo

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Birmingham Zoo
Birmingham Jill the 2021 Groundhog Day forecaster. Photo via Birmingham Zoo

It’s official. Birmingham Jill, a opossum, is this year’s guest winter weather prognosticator for Groundhog Day 2021 at the Birmingham Zoo. 

For the fourth consecutive year, a local zoo animal will be standing in for Birmingham Bill, the zoo’s resident groundhog, who due to hibernation will be sleeping through this year’s festivities. Last year, Bilbo, a Eurasian Owl, saw his shadow predicting six additional weeks of winter.

How to Watch

A native species of Alabama, Birmingham Jill will be making her winter weather prediction virtually and live on the Birmingham Zoo’s Facebook and YouTube channel. Tune in this coming Tuesday, February 2nd, 10:00AM for the annual Groundhog (Opossum) Day ceremony.

Birmingham Zoo
Birmingham Zoo. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Where is Birmingham Bill?

A tradition at the Birmingham Zoo since 1990, the annual winter Groundhog Day forecast was made famous in the Magic City by the Zoo’s lovable and cuddly groundhog Birmingham Bill. 

According to Bhamwiki, the first Groundhog Day celebration in Birmingham began thirty-one years ago at the zoo in 1990. The original Birmingham Bill lived to be 10 years old, passing away in 1996, eleven days after his final forecast. Several groundhogs served as his stand-in over the years. 

What is Groundhog Day – The Rules

Birmingham Zoo
Birmingham Bill, the Groundhog and Birmingham Jill, the opposum. Photo via Birmingham Zoo.

The Pennsylvania Dutch superstition claims that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow on February 2nd, 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.

Back in 2019, Birmingham Jill predicted six additional weeks of winter. Opossums are notoriously good at making winter weather forecasts. Up until 2020, Sand Mountain Sam, a opossum seer from Albertville, Alabama has predicted Spring’s arrival correctly 25 times over the past 26 years.

2021?

We have it on good authority, Birmingham Bill gave Birmingham Jill some tips before he took his long winter nap. A prehistoric animal that dates back to the dinosaurs, Jill assures us – she has got this year’s prediction in the bag. 

I know I will be glued to the Birmingham Zoo Facebook page on Groundhog Day at 10:00AM.

Will Birmingham Jill see her shadow or not?

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.