Britain Finally Votes for a National Bird [PHOTOS]
As things stand, the United Kingdom does not have a national bird. That's what ornithologist David Lindo, who calls himself the "Urban Birder," wants to change. Ten birds have made a final short-list, and the Birder is asking the general public to vote which they think should represent their country.
What's interesting is that the voting isn't just restricted to citizens of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This reporter - from 'across the pond' in New York - logged himself into Lindo's official site to vote for the kingfisher, a vibrant blue and orange jewel of riverbanks that has always been a personal favorite. A kingfisher can sit motionless for hours waiting for prey to come by - a display of control and patience befitting Britain's iconic Queen's Guard.
Of course, it should certainly be left up to a country's own people to make this choice, and it is Lindo's hope that this will be the case. Earlier last year, the Birder and his supporters narrowed down a list of 60 native birds to the 10 that remain, and they plan to close the vote on the day of Britain's general election, May 7. (Scroll to read on...)
Following the results of this election, Lindo plans to ask the new government to officially appoint the winner as the national bird. And it seems that the United Kingdom's Royal Society of Bird Protection (RSBP) is happy to support this initiative.
"It seems most other nations have pipped us to the post in identifying a national bird, and for the UK not to have a national bird when we are a nation of bird lovers does seem to be a glaring omission," Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the RSPB, recently told BBC News.
What's interesting is that back in the 1960s, enthusiasts with the RSBP unofficially named the robin as the nation's representative bird, but, as Lindo points out, many of Britain's robins are actually non-native, and there are many other species that hold "a special place in the hearts and minds of the British public."
And just which birds does Lindo name? (Scroll to check them out!)
Britain's native blackbird is Lindo's own favorite. "A dark and handsome thrush," as the Birder calls it, the blackbird is actually the most common bird in the UK, and can be found in all parts of Britain.
The blue tit is another popular choice. A welcome burst of vibrant blues, yellows, and greens in Britain's sometimes overcast countryside, this common garden bird can also be found across the United Kingdom.
Next comes the resplendent kingfisher. This royalty of the avian world was actually in decline prior to the late 1990s. Now it is making a local comeback, but is still a rare and exciting sight to behold.
The hen harrier is another of the rarer bird species in the UK. This powerful bird of prey, somtimes called a "skydancer," spends its seasons traveling Britain, hunting down unsuspecting prey even as it struggles to recover from serious ecological decline that has threatened it on a global scale.
"Shamefully, there is perhaps just one breeding pair remaining in England," Lindo explained. "If Britain wants to back an underdog then the Hen Harrier is the one."
Another sky hunter, the red kite, is a conservation success story. Where once this raptor could only be found in a dwindling population in Wales, there are now more than 3,000 kites soaring across UK skies.
The mute swan may be a personal favorite of the Queen's, as the crown still officially retains ownership of all unmarked mute swans in open waters. It also happens to be one of the largest airborne birds in the world, weighing up to 20 pounds even while maintaining the semblance of grace that swans are known for.
The wren was a surprise addition to the final short-list, as it is by no means remarkable to look at. When this little brown bird opens its bill, however, brace yourself for a powerful and beautiful song that easily overshadows other garden singers in volume alone!
The puffin may seem like another strange suggestion as a national bird, but you must not forget that the United States was so close to selecting the turkey as its own national symbol. And the puffin is clearly unmistakable with its own brand of splendor.
The barn owl is another hunter that made the list, and this hauntingly pale raptor is one that won't soon be forgotten. A much-loved bird that makes the English countryside its hunting grounds, these hunters keep crops and silos protected from rodents that would otherwise plunder Britain's agricultural wealth.
Last, but certainly not least, the UK's native robin [pictured above] is the unofficial frontrunner in this little election. A bright-breasted bird with an unforgettable song, the robin can be found in nearly every part of the United Kingdom. Singing even at night by streetlamps, these little birds appear quirky and kind.
But don't be fooled. When bothered, robins can be incredibly aggressive and territorial, driving away intruders to the point of drawing blood.
And despite that mean streak, they seem to be a safe bet to win Lindo's election. YouGov-UK recently decided to take a sneak-peek at what the result might be, asking a sample-set of British citizens which of these 10 they would chose as their national bird. The robin handedly won, perhaps because it is the most recognizable for everyday citizens.
About 37 percent of the citizens polled chose the red-breasted songbird, while a mere 11 percent backed the barn owl - which took second place. The mute swan, kingfisher, and blackbird took close third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively.
Still, it's important to remember that YouGov's polled demographic might not resemble the mindset of Lindo's voters, who are bound to be a bit more in-the-know about the UK's most famous birds.
The answer to Lindo's question, "will the Robin be knocked off its perch?" likely remains uncertain, at least until this May.
For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).
- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS.