America has the bald eagle, Japan has the green pheasant, Germany has the golden eagle and India has the peacock. We’re talking national birds, of course — and the shocking fact that Great Britain doesn’t have one.
The UK may famously be a nation of animal-lovers, but as far as making it official, it hasn’t yet.
David Lindo wants to change that. Lindo, one of the UK’s leading ornithologists and a writer, broadcaster, speaker and photographer, otherwise known as “The Urban Birder,” is running a campaign to get Britain to officially select its national bird.
In fact, Lindo has been gearing up for this role since he was seven-years-old.
“The idea came to me a long time ago. I was a kid in primary school, I must have been about seven, I’ve been interested in birds all my life. Before I could walk I was interested in birds, which came from nowhere, I didn’t have a mentor, it was just inate.” Lindo told Mashable.
“I was in my primary school class and I decided to run a poll to see what everyone’s favourite bird was and the favourite bird was the sparrow. I guess now looking back the children in my class only knew two birds, a sparrow or a pigeon and the sparrow won. I kind of thought then, not in a very articulate way, but I thought when I get older I’d love to ask this question again. This came back into my mind two years ago and I decided to time it with the election.”
It’s the final round of voting that will take place alongside the UK general election. In 2014, Lindo drew up a shortlist of 60 nominees and asked the public to whittle the list down to the top 10 birds that they felt best represented Britain.
On the original list of 60 were a few that raised eyebrows, such as the swallow, which only spends the summer in Britain, migrating to warmer climes in the colder months.
“It’s interesting when we think about the birds that we perceive to be British are in fact, not,” said Lindo. “Part of the idea behind this election, it’s not just about birds and conservation and a huge element of education, but it’s also to do with Britishness. What do you perceive as best representing Britain? There were birds in the first shortlist like parakeet, and people were saying how the hell can that be in the list? That’s not British, it’s only been here 40 years — to which I reply, well I’ve been here that long and I’m British.”
An impressive 70,000 people voted in the first round. Lindo said the idea really seemed to capture the British public’s imagination, many of whom were also surprised we didn’t already have a national bird. The final selection has just been revealed.
These are the 10 birds in the running to become Britain’s National Bird, presented with comment on each from Lindo.
The Mute Swan is one of the largest flying birds in the world weighing in at anything up to 20 pounds. Once considered to be the property of the Crown they are the epitome of beauty and grace.
This glorious aerial master has won the hearts of the British public and they are an amazing conservation success. From a tiny dwindling population based in Wales, there are now in excess of 3,000 Red Kites in Britain.
With any election there is always a candidate that is billed as having an outside chance. This beautiful raptor is a hot political potato as it is the most persecuted in the UK. Shamefully, there is perhaps just one pair remaining in England. If Britain wants to back an underdog then the Hen Harrier is the one.
This totally photogenic comedic looking seabird really deserves its northern Scottish alternative name of Sea Parrot. They are only in Britain during the summer before slipping off to spend the winter months in the middle of the ocean. If you want a character as our National Bird, look no further.
There is nothing more haunting than to see the ghostly image of a Barn Owl in the countryside flying through the beam of a car headlights in the depth of night. Everybody loves an owl. But do you love the Barn Owl enough to make it our National Bird?
Truly the dazzling jewel of the British bird scene, but surprisingly, they are not an everyday sight for most people. Despite their bright colours, Kingfishers can be easily overlooked as they spend a lot their time perched motionless by riverbanks. As our National Bird, you’ll be able to see one every day!
The Wren is a tiny bird with a mighty voice. After the Goldcrest and Firecrest it’s the third smallest bird in Britain. Many people mistakenly believe that the Jenny Wren has always our National Bird. Now is your chance to make it a reality.
Perhaps Britain’s most famous bird it needs little introduction. The good old Robin Redbreast is actually a member of the thrush family and rarely lives longer than a couple of years. It has already held the title of Britain’s Favourite Bird for nearly 50 years.
The Blackbird is one of the most familiar birds in the land with a truly mellifluous song. Paul McCartney sang a mellifluous song about the Blackbird. Will this dark and handsome thrush be calling the tune when the votes are finally in?
There can’t be a garden in the land that isn’t graced by Blue Tits, one Britain’s most beautiful birds. They are amongst the most familiar of our garden birds and are avid users of the feeders and nest boxes that we put out for them. Has the cheeky Blue Tit got what it takes to be our National Bird?
We asked Lindo if there were any surprises in the final list.
“I’m very disappointed that some of the iconic British birds, that I thought would fare very well, birds like the turtle dove, the skylark, the nightingale, all the birds that have been mentioned by Shakespeare and by all those wonderful writers in the past, didn’t make the list. It’s almost a case of out of sight, out of mind because all these birds have all diminished in population over the years,” Lindo said.
While he obviously wants the great British public to democratically make the decision, we pressed him on which bird he would choose as the UK’s avian mascot.
“I can’t be seen to try and influence anything but if I had to say, I would probably want the blackbird to win. I love the song of the blackbird and what I love about it the most is the fact that it is a very urban bird, so most people in this country have heard a blackbird whether they know it or not. There’s up to nine million pairs of blackbirds in this country so most people will be near to a blackbird at some point in their lives.”
You can have your say in which of the top 10 becomes Britain’s national bird by voting online now — head to Vote National Bird to cast your ballot.
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