A national bird

David Lindo, the Urban Birder, has launched a vote, whose winner will be announced on election day next year, for Britain’s National Bird.

450px-Erithacus_rubecula_scotlandCurrently it is the Robin – a feisty little bird with a nice song that is familiar to almost all. There’s nothing wrong with Robins.

On the long shortlist of 60 species there are a few that would be very odd choices – the Pheasant and the Ring-necked Parakeet for example, as non-native species.  It would also seem a little odd to choose a summer or winter visitor to our country as ‘our’ national bird so that, to my mind, removes about half the list and species such as Swallow and Waxwing.  But maybe I am being too scientific and rational about this.

It can’t be a duck – can it? Somehow I just don’t think my national bird can be a duck.

I guess we go for a bird that we know and we like. It’s likely to be a familiar garden bird with a pleasant song, isn’t it?  You can see why the Robin breasted the tape first last time around and I assume that Blackbird and Song Thrush were in the photo finish for second. I wonder what the order was.

A case can certainly be made for Red Grouse, as a British race of a much more widespread species with a cultural significance (even if its significance is that we kill it for fun), but it is quite difficult to imagine the great British public thinking that the Red Grouse is ‘their’ bird in a public vote. If it did well, it would help any campaign to ban driven grouse shooting though.  Which country would chase its national bird across its nesting habitat so that it can be shot out of the air?  Tempting…

Or why not choose the Red Grouse’s favourite raptor – the Hen Harrier.  What a way to follow up on Hen Harrier Day by voting for the country’s most persecuted protected bird.

Wouldn’t it be awful if the Linnet won?

Vote here.

Website Pin Facebook Twitter Myspace Friendfeed Technorati del.icio.us Digg Google StumbleUpon Premium Responsive

Get email notifications of new blog posts

Registration confirmation will be emailed to you.

28 Replies to “A national bird”

  1. How many Bald Eagles do our cousins across the pond see in their back garden? If the vote is decided on numbers which it will be, a garden bird, it should stay as it is.

    1. Chrissie - interesting point. The new country of the USA decided on its national bird fairly early in its life. Benjamin Franklin thought it ought to have been the Wild Turkey.

      But when it comes to voting there is no 'it should' - we each have a vote and then we have to live with the decision of us all.

  2. I was really torn between the House Sparrow and the Hen Harrier. My garden just wouldn't be the same without the huge family of Sparrows, but then Harry would never forgive me if I didn't vote for him. So I am using my vote to keep Hen Harriers in everyone's minds and hoping we don't lose then forever.

    1. Findlay - as you get older you'll find that life is full of difficult decisions. And a lot of them you don't ever know whether you chose the right one or not. Just do your best as you have done with this one. i'd be quite happy with house Sparrow too - I wouldn't be happy with Linnet.

  3. National birds were elected mostly in the 1960s (some earlier, some later) as probably the first global attempt to initiate bird education campaigns, starting from the bird species most beloved in any country. Tens of countries selected their national birds, but in retrospect, very few of these birds managed to succeed in being the country's national symbol. Barn Swallow is one of the "strongest" national birds - in Estonia.

    Ever since the election in 1962, the barn swallow has become a symbol of Estonia, Estonians and Estonian culture. This was consolidated in the years of the "Singing Revolution" when the barn swallow together with the cornflower were confirmed as national Estonian symbols.
    The strength of the barn swallow as a symbol is also shown by the frequent use of the swallow motif in our contemporary imagery when emphasis on the close relationship between Estonia and local origin is desired: trade marks such as „Tunnustatud Eesti Maitse – Approved Estonian Taste“ and the Estonian ecological symbol „Puhas keskkond – Pure environment“, Tallinn airport, Estonian Air and many-many others. The barn swallow is also often used as a symbol of Estonian character in the cartoons in our printed media.
    Since you could not send e-mails in the 1960s, then it happened that also the Austrians had simultaneously elected the Barn Swallow, but somehow they backed off and soon chose the Great White Egret instead. However, the Egret did not win the masses and nowadays if you ask an Austrian about their national bird, they think it must be an eagle.

  4. There are some odd species on the list. However, whilst initially tempted by Linnet... eventually I had to plump for Hen Harrier. Then I found that I had 5 other choices, I added some birds that I have particularly enjoyed ringing (Bullfinch and Jay), a "gut"choice of Golden Eagle, and of course (because Mark does such a great job of promoting it), LINNET!

    1. Phil - very good. Although I think you could have voted 6 times for Hen Harrier (though that would seem a little excessive - I have only voted for it twice so far!)

  5. I too thought there were some odd species, and I am gutted that my personal favourite bird, the nuthatch, is not even on the list! However, I made my six choices and included the Hen Harrier as one of them, plus the Turtle Dove (HH and turtle dove are both in need of help, so having one as our national bird can't hurt!), plus a couple of my best-loved garden birds and the kingfisher. I didn't realise you could vote for the same bird more than once!
    PS - I managed to see my first ever turtle dove this year, in Norfolk - very thrilled!

      1. I hope so... We don't get turtle doves where we live (in North Wales) so our kids (teenagers now) also saw their first turtle doves this year. I hope it's not their last.

  6. There are some very questionable choices on here, quite frankly, not least Pheasant and Ring-necked Parakeet.

    I plumped for Hen Harrier, Lapwing, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Skylark - for conservation reasons - but my overall winner would be Wren. Small, but definitely punches above its weight.

    I think you're far too hard on the Linnet, Mark, especially when it's red-listed...

  7. Perhaps we should follow the Guatemalan precedent and have our National Bird as the currency and on the flag. The Quetzal sounds better than Linnet so I wont vote linnet (although I'm tempted, see Dr M Parry above)! At least if Scotland goes independent we will have the opportunity to redesign several national flags, rename the currency and perhaps have a different bird for each country?

    I don't see why we can't have a summer visitor, Mark. I voted for Swift on David Lindo's stand at the Bird Fair. I know they're only here for about six weeks but don't they let you know it, screaming round the village in an unruly gang making the least interested bystander look to the heavens. Their lovely silhouette would grace any flag or coin.

    1. We could return to the wren which graced the farthing from 1937 - 1956. I agree with Anne Rogers as I was disappointed to see nuthatch missing from the list.

  8. Is there a marketing opportunity here, get the Hen Harrier top ranking & there's a message in there somewhere?

    At the moment it is becoming something of an icon of the struggle to get the conservation voice heard and a collaborative effort to address the failings of the establishment to tackle illegal activities?

  9. Not easy, eventually chose;
    2 birds of prey - Buzzard & Kestrel, not Red Kite because they aren't as wide spread but do fly better than the Buzzard.
    2 garden birds - Robin (has to be on the list) and Goldfinch, beautiful birds that I see nearly every day in the office garden.
    2 common / much maligned birds - Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw, both quite attractive in their own way. Could have had Starling instead.
    I wanted to vote for 8, 2 birds of nature conservation concern would have been added to the list - Skylark & Linnet (whoops)
    So not easy to get my own list down to 6. Anne is correct Nuthatch should have been on the list.

  10. Well wouldn't it be nice if all those RSPB members voted Hen Harrier as one of the six choices.Maybe they would have given a bit of encouragement by RSPB.
    Have been looking to find a petition by RSPB to license Grouse estates but it looks like nothing to be found,maybe it is just talk as a delaying tactic.
    Saying is"Action speaks louder than words."

  11. My understanding of what might count as the nation's favourite birds is strongly influenced by the RSPB's choice of images for their products. It is interesting in particular to look at the range of Christmas cards in their recent catalogue (buy now before they run out!). Naturally these include the obligatory robin as well as wren, long-tailed tit, blackbird, dove (sp), puffin, bullfinch, blue tit, chaffinch, great tit, goldcrest, crested tit, goldfinch, siskin and a partridge - in a pear tree of course. Other than a couple of owls there is a complete absence of raptors (and grouse) which leads me to conclude that these aren't the kind of "nice birds" that people are expected to like.

    Maybe I'm just paranoid, what do you think?

  12. Some odd options on the list, aliens etc. I voted for Red Grouse, Hen Harrier ( of course!) Golden Eagle as even if the Scots bugger off we still have , oh yes just the one, Peregrine now in towns and cities THE raptor to act as the hook with the general public, Kingfisher on colour alone and the humble House Sparrow. No Mark I never considered Linnet, although I don't understand your apparent prejudice. Why isn't Grey Partridge on the list? or maybe I missed it or perhaps Manxie but then it could be an endless list. Personally the most stunning birds have been Rubythroat and Red-flanked Bluetail but surely not national bird candidates.

  13. What about the Manx Shearwater or the Gannet, where 90% and 68%, respectively, of the global population breed around the British Isles?

  14. I votex for the swift. Obvious for those that know me.
    The most incredible of all our birds.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.