Ten candidates are on the shortlist to become our national bird; but one imposter is fast making a bid
By Harry Wallop
6:05AM GMT 17 Mar 2015
There are two national votes on May 7, both involving controversial, scheming and sometimes preening individuals. One is the general election and the other is a poll to find a national bird of Britain. There is little doubt which Britons will enjoy participating in more.
Britain has never had a national bird, but it has a deep-rooted love of the creatures. With 1.1 million on its books, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has more paid-up members than all of the political parties put together. Birds are not just part of the English language, they are the punctuation marks that measure the passing of time: the first cuckoo of spring, swallow of summer or robin atop a snowy garden fence. Tweet of the Day preceding the Today programme has almost become as much part of Radio 4 as the pips.
David Goode, the author of Nature in Towns and Cities, says: “A love of birds is a very definite British thing. When the great Victorian natural history societies of Manchester or Birmingham organised trips to, say, the Peak District or North Wales they would hire special trains so great was the demand.”
But for all our avian affection, we do not have a national bird. Sweden has the blackbird, Mongolia has the saker falcon, but Britain has no official feathered friend. The vote to rectify this has been proposed by David Lindo, a keen birdwatcher and a passionate believer in birds as a force for good. So far it is an unofficial vote, but he says: “We’re talking to government.”
He drew up a longlist of 60 birds last year. Following hundreds of thousands of online votes, it has been whittled down to 10: barn owl, blackbird, blue tit, hen harrier, kingfisher, mute swan, puffin, red kite, robin and wren.