The funny thing is that most Alabamians have never seen a yellowhammer, and wouldn't recognize one if they did see it. They're not that rare, but they are very rural in their habitat. So the average Alabamian has never seen one. You'll see red-headed woodpeckers in town, but rarely a yellowhammer.
I've lived in Alabama all my life and I've never seen one, except in pictures. That's just the way it is. I think the state bird should be a mockingbird, just like the state flower should still be a goldenrod, or maybe a dogwood. Not a camellia. They're in no way native.