Your least favourite bird?

All birds are brilliant! It goes without saying, but I’ve said it.  But it could just be that some birds are more brilliant than others.

A while back, in a blog about cormorants, I said that cormorants were quite pretty really, which might be stretching things a bit, but they wouldn’t come bottom of my list of favourite birds (even though, all birds are brilliant, I say again).

Since then I have been wondering which species would be bottom of my list, and I’ve only considered UK species in my musings.

It’s been a really difficult choice, much more so than choosing one’s favourite species.  I’d have a shortlist of 4-5 favourite birds and I wouldn’t get into trouble at all whichever I chose (would it be hen harrier, roseate tern or what?).  But one’s least favourite?  That’s a different matter – for all birds are brilliant.

Do you remember, not many of you will be old enough even to have a chance, a Marty Feldman sketch where he goes to buy Olsen’s Standard Book of British Birds, from John Cleese, in a bookshop (do you remember them?). Have a look at the link here – the bird book is a few lines down.  Anyway, it shows that Marty Feldman didn’t like all birds.

You might have noticed that I am spinning this out a bit – I’m still not sure that I should tell you.


Yes, I should – it’s…….







the linnet!  There, I’ve said it.

By Blattkaktus (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Now, of course I like linnets, but they are bottom of my list under some circumstances.  I like lots of linnets.  Flocks of linnets are fine.  But a single, well-seen, male linnet is a poor bird (although I still like them, of course).

There is something rather pathetic about a male linnet.  Weak song and droopy plumage.  It is the chinless wonder of the UK bird world.

That red breast which has nothing like the depth of colour of a robin or the decisiveness of delineation of a redstart.  It’s a weak breast for a weak bird.

And it has a slightly irritating wing patch and that terribly dull grey head.  And a bit of drab brown thrown in.

Well, that’s my choice and I’m sure you will take me to task over it.  But what is your choice of least favourite UK bird?


101 Replies to “Your least favourite bird?”

  1. Difficult one – almost like having to say which of your children you like least! If pressed I would perhaps plump for the urban version of Columba livia a.k.a the feral pigeon. Does that count?

    1. Jonathan – thank you for playing the game. But does feral pigeon count? That mat be an easy way out…

      1. I would agree that it is an easy way out but they are a self sustaining (with a little help from the dotty folk who throw bread at them) wild population that just happens to thrive in our city centres, so why not? I imagine a few people on this blog might choose the Ring-necked pheasant but I guess that might not count either given that it is an introduced species whose numbers are kept topped up though repeated releases (it’s weird that that is even permitted really, isn’t it? One can’t go tipping large numbers of most other exotic species into the countryside without getting into trouble).

  2. I suppose, if pressed, it would have to be the Moorhen.

    I just don’t like the way they’re always skulking off. It always seems somewhat shifty to me.

    1. One of the reasons the coot is in the running for my Least Favourite Bird is that they are so beastly to the moorhens. And quite appalling parents too.

      But I think I’d probably have to plump for the wood pigeon. Wasteful, greedy, ungainly, a bit ugly and with a tedious call. Give me a beautiful feral pigeon any day.

  3. I don’t really like to admit least favourite birds because they have it hard enough as it is, however if I’m being honest (and for the record I would NEVER ever wish any harm upon these…) Coot, herring gull and sparrowhawk.

    1. Soylent – welcome! And thank you, Hmmm – coot, yes, they wouldn’t be top of my list either.

  4. Canada goose must get a mention in any least favourite list.
    Noisy and brash they lack charm. As for linnets , I love `em !

  5. I think it would have to be the Eurasian coot for me – quite apart from their propensity for taking over just about every wet habitat almost at the expense of everything else, their breeding strategy is…well…pointless. For anyone that does not know, Eurasian coots often kill all but two of broods that can number up to eight yet they are also often triple-brooded in a good year. The strategy certainly evolved as an insurance against poor conditions but it is so ingrained in some pairs that they do it in a good year even thought other pairs let their complete broods live.

    Mute swans would run them close because they sometimes let cygnets die, as they do not know how to feed them in their first few breeding attempts. Canada geese and feral pigeons are a bit obvious and in a league of their own along with Egyptian geese, ring-necked parakeets and ruddy ducks but that is another story.

  6. Oooh now that’s a hard one! But I think I will plump for the starling. They are very handsome birds, and a single starling is a very beautiful thing, but noisy, greedy mobs of the little blighters keep hogging my garden bird feeders….

  7. Having spent many seasons ringing shags, I think they would get my vote. Although they have glossy plumage and stunning eye when observed close up, they have ugly chicks, have a good bite, stink and are not afraid of going to the toilet or vomiting on you when you want to put a ring on one. They have some truly disgusting habits! A close second would be collared dove.

  8. Easy peasy – wood pigeons. They are too clumsy, too big, too noisy (constantly), too greedy, too pooey and too many.
    If there were a lot less of them the other issues wouldn’t be a problem.
    However, they are very tasty :o)

  9. It has to be the wood pigeon, or the ‘effing’ pigeon as its known in our house. Apart from stripping our ash tree of its new leaves they send down a constant bombardment of twigs and even whole branches. We also have to have a gazebo up in the garden, not to shelter from the sun/rain, but from the disgusting outpourings from the pigeons’ back ends. They also make a racket when courting and to top it all their nests stink something rotten. Extinction can’t come too soon. We love our finches, blackbirds, thrushes, dunnocks sparrows et al, even the sparrowhawk who occasionally snacks on the former.

  10. Finally a bird orientated blog that gets my juices going !

    Without question my vote goes to the infernal Hen Harrier.

      1. Brave ? No just seething with indignation at the social injustice that has until now, been handed out to moorland owners by so called environmentalists who are hell-bent on conserving bloody Hen Harriers.
        Consider this Old Chap. The moor that my late ancestors went to great lengths to acquire well over a century ago and has subsequently drained the family coffers due to decades of necessary and expensive conservation work such as drainage, regular burning and installation of necessary access infrastructure. I hope you can at least appreciate the fact that heather moorland does not manage itself.
        Some 60 years ago, much of the moorland under my stewardship was a morass of sphagnum and cotton grass, so wet that one could barely walk across it. Nowadays practically every inch of my moor is covered with heather and it is so dry that one could walk across it without getting so much as a smidgen of peat on ones brothel creepers. As my former Head Keeper once remarked to me, “a drop of rain falling on this moor Sir, will find itself in the River xxxxxx before the day is out”. Whereas less than three decades ago, huge great tracts of the moor were accessible on foot only, nowadays the network of roads is such that none of my guns has to walk more than 400 yards to the find the nearest shooting butt.

        Such progress and dutiful conservation costs money and I am reliant upon the grouse (along with my SPS & HLS payments) to foot these bills. As you well know these blasted harriers eat the birds that my keepers go to great lengths to conserve, why the blazes would I wish to see them on my moor ?

        You bunny hugger types would do well to appreciate that times are changing and whilst you may not possess the wit to appreciate the intricacies of moorland management at least the progressive young Master Benyon has…we always did have high hopes for that boy.

  11. While Woodpigeons look quite attractive, they seem to me to have particularly small heads compared to the size of their bodies. So for me they look stupid! Also, I cannot get excited about seeing geese, for the same reason. Greylags in particular. And then there is also Common Pheasant & Feral Pigeon…

  12. My least favourite bird is the corncrake. It has a lot to answer for! When I was 14 (late 80s?) I was adamant that I had spotted a family of corncrakes in a local hay field. Unfortunately in my teenage haste to get a better view and fantasizing about getting my picture in the YOC magazine, I fell into a slurry pit.

    Luckily, although I hadn’t carried out a thorough risk assessment, the buddy system was proven to be effective. My friends rescued me before I got too far in.

    Obviously I stunk to high heaven for the rest of the day and I never did 100% verify the corncrake observation in rural Wiltshire.

    Never venture out alone kids and always tell your parents where you’re going!

    1. Nick Self – thank you, good story, but clearly all your own fault and nothing to do with the wonderful corncrake!

  13. There are quite a lot of comments on Twitter about this question; suggested species are wood pigeon (but they have their supporters too), feral pigeons, sheathbills (from a biologist who collects seal scats and is in competition with the sheathbills!), distant unidentifiable waders, pheasants (although they taste nice) or anything making high-pitched unidentifiable noises from deep vegetation.

  14. Not a species as such but any bird that can be classified as a ‘little brown job’.

    You know the ones – those infernal small, nondescript brown birds with not an eye-stripe or wing bar to distinguish them from anything other than the nuisance they undoubtedly are, forever hopping in and out of shrubs and hedges and not sitting still enough for you to get the binoculars on them to make the identification.

    Oh, and they’re usually completely silent too!

  15. Ca’t believe there’s ‘votes’ for Coot and Moorhen both very close to the top of my faves list – the swines, how very dare they!

    Red legged partridge must be one of my least faves – refuse to count them on my lists of which I seem to have many – they are good lookers though and don’t taste too bad either

    1. David – thank you. What with Canada goose and pheasant the non-native species are scoring quite highly, aren’t they?

  16. With tongue firmly in cheek I would like to nominate the infernal Lesser Redpoll.

    I’ve only been “birding” for a few years, and it is one of those frustratingly common birds that is always everywhere where I am not .. not seen one, still waiting to tick one off. My brother keeps emailing me pictures of them in his garden each winter. I go up there full of hope, and come away with a load of pictures of Goldfinches on the Nyger feeder!

    One day …

  17. Interesting debate this and I have to admit I am struggling. I could easily come up with my least favourite person, food or television programme so why am I having difficulty thinking of a bird. I could make a good argument for any of the medium-sized waders that are hard to identify across half a mile of mudflat, or immature gulls for a similar reason. However, I’d probably go for Canada goose just for their sheer destructiveness in large numbers – but then again, that’s our fault for introducing them in the first place, which brings me back round to least favourite people….

  18. Bloomin’ herons are my least favourite. Selfishly only because I have a pond which they seem to think is their personal feeding station!

    I wouldn’t like to see the extinct or harmed in any way – I would just prefer them on a lake or such – not my back garden.

  19. Female Common Pheasants, those evil beaks. For this last summer only, male blackbirds, for decimating every container and hanging basket I planted in spring. It was odd. There seemed to be an aggressive gang of them, and only a few females, and they patrolled the garden like hoodies in a shopping centre for about a month, plunging their beaks into everything and anything. I don’t see them now. (But I do hope to see them in perpetuity. All is forgiven chaps…almost!)

  20. I hope you’ll forgive a quick defence of the humble Linnet. Deprived of its traditional seed foods by intensive agriculture, this is a species that now makes its way in the arable countryside by feeding its chicks the ripening seeds of oilseed rape (see In other words, it is managing what our politicians struggle to achieve – getting real wildlife benefit from ‘Pillar 1’ agriculture subsidies. Such a trailblazing species could never be close to the bottom of my favourites list (and nor could Woodpigeon for the same reason). I think the Pheasant props up my league table.

    Mark, however, is not alone. A colleague informs me that my namesake Jeremy Clarkson announced the linnet as his least favourite bird when he appeared on the One Show. What else do Mark and Jeremy Clarkson have in common I wonder?

    1. Jeremy – welcome and that’s a very good defence of the chinless wonder that is the linnet! I am shocked to find that I agree with Clarkson about anything and feel somewhat contrite.

  21. Thank you for all the suggestions – more from various places (eg Twitter, Facebook and Northants bird forum): lots for wood pigeon and pheasant, a few for coot and moorhen, some magpies (including from the President of the CLA!), great tit, cormorant, large (particularly immature) gulls, and, amazingly – nightingale (brown with an irritating song!)

  22. Has to be the Magpie. Horrible screechy calls. Inelegant bouncy walk. The vandal of the bird world, destroying nests and fledglings. Should get a bird ASBO.

    1. I know this is an old thread and probably has died the death (I’ve just stumbled across it!) but the magpie terrifies me! I have heard from friends in both UK and Ireland that schools are now having to put contingencies in place for protection of small children in the playgrounds, as these birds “en masse” have become so aggressive.

  23. Ed Hutchings’ post is the best comment I’ve read on this blog for months – I nearly covered my monitor in coffee I laughed so much!
    Brilliant – I’ll never look at Moorhens in the same light again!

  24. I’ll chicken out on this one, my least favourite bird is a displayed stuffed one.

  25. Woodpigeon – ghastly oily fat things – agree with all the anti comments above! They seem to be bucking the trend too – able to survive at plague proportions when most birds are falling off the plank. Pheasants are a close 2nd, I just don’t see why I should feed these introduced clay pigeons. Not to mention their predatory talents – eating wild food much needed by native birds and predating nests and chicks.

  26. Very surprised at a lot of peoples choices yours included Mark.found it very interesting.My least favourite is definitely Magpie and I do not go shooting,simply the fact they kill everything in garden if they can and are not made for killing so it is always gruesome.

  27. I think a favourite is much easier, to quote the— I presume is from the shooting/countryside vandals my favourites are harriers, the opposite of him. Least favourite lets see crows, may be gulls no interesting ID challenges and the same for the little brown jobs. The Collared Doves that wake me far too early, no thats just me being selfish. It needs to be a bird that for me has no redeeming features, aliens then Canada Goose, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Ruddy Duck, Parakeets, must be one of them, although Feral Pigeon could be a candidate, no they feed too many Peregrines. For me it is what I’ve referred to for a long time as long tailed vermin, the Pheasant.

  28. Certainly cannot go with Linnet, had a nest in the garden this year and was well chuffed. The call of Black-headed Gull at a colony grates a bit, but I think my least favourite would be Collared Dove, boring plumage, boring song.

  29. Woodpigeon, Coots, Moorhens, Canada/Greylag Geese I never give a second glance but I can’t say I dislike them. Reed Buntins I find slightly annoying but only the fact that every time I go out It’s like “What’s that noise?” *looks around* “oh Reed Bunting again!” . Shelduck I find kind of boring, don’t ask why. Black-headed Gull!!! Noisiest bird ever? I find that really annoying and I’m actually going to say that in that respect, Black-headed Gulls are my least favourite, ALTHOUGH they make good practice for taking flight shots.

  30. Thank you Doug – I hope your monitor has recovered from its drenching.

    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned Ring-necked Parakeets – noisy and an ecological disaster, are they not?

    Sir David Attenborough is a fan though apparently…

  31. I’m going for Waxwing, on the grounds that they have always managed to avoid me even when I’ve been in places where I know they’ve been seen in the previous half-hour.

    1. Martin – but does that mean that when you see one (and they are worth seeing) they’ll become your favourite bird straight away?

  32. More suggestions from Twitter – woodpeckers, Caspian gull (overhyped, over-difficult and over rubbish dumps), swans, collared dove, wrens (too noisy) and the bird next door who spends sunny days talking on her mobile in the garden (must be a rarity this year?).

  33. Brilliant, i always joke with clients on tours that Linnet is my least favourite bird, but mainly because they have an untrustworthy face, a beady eye and are generally up to no good! And as for their vocalisations…. : )

  34. Anything that attracts roaming idiots with scopes. Can’t abide people travelling hundreds of miles, spewing out CO2, to get a glimpse of a lesser-spotted ethiopian red-breasted sparrow just because it’s a “tick”.

    1. Chris – Thank you and welcome. I’ve never seen a lesser-spotted Ethiopean red-breasted sparrow but they do sound very nice…

  35. Hooded crow…. well the hooded crow that I found poisoned under its nest a few years ago. But that is least favourite encounter, just in front of being spectacularly sh*t on by a woodpigeon. Most encounters with birds induce admiration rather than dislike even if they are painful, thinking of being whacked over the head by bonxies and having acrtic terns drawing blood from my scalp. Getting fulmar oiled is pretty unpleasant too but if we get too close to birds near their nests (even if it is in the interests of conservation related science) what should we expect.

  36. Puffin, and all thanks to the RSPB and their cloying anthropomorphism of the Puffin chick at Sumburgh. Since when is a young Puffin called a ‘puffling’? Or, for that matter, a young Guillemot known as a ‘jumpling’? (The latter another inanity the RSPB are using in recent announcements).

    Does wildlife need to be made so infantile in order to endear it to the public? Surely not. It’s not the Puffins’ fault, of course, but they really need to have stern words with their PR people.

    Oh. There’s me anthropomorphising them as well. Seems it’s catching…

  37. The Drake Mallard…no doubt about it. Their propensity for gang rape and necrophilia surely has to make them everybodies least favourite bird ?

    By the way, Moorhens are not shifty, just furtive. And wouldn’t you be if you shared your habitat with the sexually deviant Mallard?

    1. Joe – good point. Male mallards are a bit plastic and a bit perverted all at once. They run the chinless linnet very close. I think linnets probably have guilty secrets too though, they just aren’t as blatant about sinning.

  38. Bee-eater – cheap and nasty, unnecessarily gaudy. Or avocet – what’s that silly beak all about? Much prefer something subtle like a linnet.

    1. Hugh – Hi there! Nice to see you last week. Avocet has sometimes been said to be a suitable logo for the RSPb – loud, showy and unnecessarily aggressive (but that can’t be true can it?). As for bee-eaters – they are lovely.

  39. The linnet? How dare you?!

    Has to be Tweety Pie. I don’t much like cats but I was always on Sylvester’s side. And that roadrunner was a cocky little git as well.

  40. Well on birding northants I plumped for the wood pigeon, but it seems to have plenty of votes one here. I can’t agree on the Linnet nor Hen Harrier! The coot and geese have already be nominated, so a random one is needed. The Ostrich, yep that includes all the owners of such birds being kept in fields in the UK, every day I drive past some near Chapel Brampton almost made me crash my lorry the first time I saw them, won’t say what I thought they were. Is there any real need or even demand for them in this country? Also don’t try to touch them, viscious little b…….!

  41. How can anyone not like the handsome hooded crow, for heavens sake?! I think we need some sort of government-funded rehabilitation initiative for this bird; perhaps with a catchy slogan – how about something like… “Hug a Hoodie”?

  42. The poor Linnet! When a splendid bird he is. In sunlight that breast seems illuminated and the song is a thing of beauty. I love the chatty, zingy wheezy flight call also. A linnet flying over calling always cheers me up.
    My least favourite bird – Cormorant. Anglers rightly want a mass cull. Some fisheries are taking a real hammering as they hoover everything up from under the water.

      1. “My least favourite bird – Cormorant. Anglers rightly want a mass cull. Some fisheries are taking a real hammering as they hoover everything up from under the water.”

        Not all anglers Jason. I certainly do not wish to see a mass cull of cormorants and I’ve yet to hear a remotely persuasive argument in favour of one.

  43. Can’t believe no-one has mentioned the Herring Gull. A brute of a bird which will steal chips and ice cream from a child’s hand, poo all over your car and would give its Black-headed cousin a run for its money in the noise department. Anyone like me who’s lived by the sea will attest to their volume after a heavy night when their racous call welcomes a summer day at 4am.

  44. Linnet… no way! Really? Love those little fellows. I like a bird I can recognise by sound when they fly over and linnet is one I have mastered. My seven year old son likes nothing better than a game of asking What’s your favourite… What’s your second favourite…. what’s your least favourite…. what’s your second favourite out of your least favourites…. taxes the brain cells!

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