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And the UK’s favourite bird is… but do you agree?

The robin has won a public vote to find the UK’s first national bird – easily beating rivals such as the barn owl, blackbird and wren. I can’t say that I’m surprised.

No doubt the robin’s familiar red breast is swelling with pride after it won 34% of the 224,00 votes cast in the campaign, started by BBC Springwatch presenter and ornithologist David Lindo.

He now plans to ask the government to officially recognise the robin as our national bird.

Why I love the UK’s favourite bird

I adore robins. They’re one of the first birds you learn to identify as a child, plus they’re synonymous with Christmas – a big plus for any kid.

Not only do they look gorgeous, I think they’ve got a really lovely nature, too – despite those who claim they’re ‘aggressively territorial’.

I’ve got one that hangs around my garden and it pops up any time we’re in our conservatory or our garden. My sons absolutely love it – it dive bombs across our patio, then sits on the fence watching them play.

It’s always quick to investigate if I’ve been digging. It’ll even check out any new visitors we have, by sitting on our fence and peering in through our kitchen window. I’d love to know what’s going on in its head – whether it’s really wondering who this new person is, what their business is and whether they’ve brought any mealworms.

We can all relate to a robin

One of the reasons why robins probably came so high in the survey – the robin received 34% of the votes, with the barn owl in second place on 12% – is that we can all relate to them. They are estimated to live in around 85% of British gardens. Talking to friends and family, lots of people seem to have their own robin.

My mother-in-law has spent a few years feeding hers and it’s incredibly tame. It will hop right up to her when she brings it out its breakfast and even take mealworms from her hand. She gets lots of birds in her garden – ranging from tits to finches, and the occasional sparrowhawk. But her favourite is her robin.

On her advice, we started putting out suet pellets with mealworms on a raised table for our robin. These go down very well and so far – touch wood – haven’t been found by any squirrels.

In fact my love for robins is only matched by my dislike for grey squirrels, who once nibbled their way into my loft and caused a lot of damage. But that’s another story…

So do you have your own robin? And do you agree with the results of the survey, or would you prefer for another bird to have won?

Comments
Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I vote for the kingfisher. They are small but there is never any doubt about identification.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

They are lovely and nice to see them catching a fish, but they’re shy and not something most people could hope to see. Robin’s are so cocky and friendly, which means I agree with the vote.

I miss my Rocky Robin 😥 https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/pets-killing-wildlife-keep-cats-out-of-your-garden/comment-page-1/#comment-80129

Profile photo of Paul Ryan
Member

There’s one in our garden that gets so close when I’m cutting the grass, it’s like he’s saying, ‘will you just hurry up and get on with it and let me get at those worms.’

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

Robins are vicious birds – not something I’d choose as a UK representative. I’d want a bird that we can all see and one that is the most proliferate throughout the UK. We had it almost as a national bird when it appeared on the back of a farthing. It is, of course, the pretty little wren. I wonder if the vote was rigged by the reds….?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

My favourite common bird is the common blackbird. As a child I delighted in watching them building nests and feeding their young. I have one nesting in the pyracantha at present, incubating her second batch of eggs. One year I had a blackbird that took great interest whenever I did any gardening, to the extent that I had to be careful not to impale it with the garden fork. It reappeared the following spring and then I never saw it again.

Member
Col says:
13 June 2015

It’s right that the friendly little Robin should be formally recognised as the Uk’s national bird.
Those of us of a ‘certain age’ will remember the Robin figured on the farthing coin.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I’m beginning to be more suspicious about this poll – the robin seems to have even infiltrated the minds of those of a “certain age”. The bird on the farthing was most certainly a wren. Perhaps this poll should be rerun. UK wrens tend to stay here all year round whereas robins are prone to become non-doms. On a more sinister note, robins kill up to 10% of their compatriots in territorial disputes; I don’t want that sort of behaviour to be condoned in the UK. So join the WAR – Wrens Against Robins.

Profile photo of alfa
Member

Malcolm,
You will be pleased to know that the wren is the national bird of England according to wikipedia.

My favourite bird is probably the long-tailed tit with the wren not far behind.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

alfa, the plot thickens. The national bird of Scotland is the golden eagle (seems right), of Wales the red kite (although it is probably also the county bird of Buckinghamshire ), Northern Ireland doesn’t seem to have one, and England’s is the wren. So how does the robin manage to find its devious way into this? How can the UK have a favourite bird that doesn’t figure in any of its nations? I don’t like to bring vote rigging or intimidation into this, but how many meek gardeners have been threatened by the belligerent robin into voting “the right way”?

Profile photo of alfa
Member

LOL !!!!!

The Telegraph seems to agree with you though and did an article on the bird that must never represent Britain.

Profile photo of Paul Ryan
Member

On the subject of red kites, it’s really striking how successful the reintroduction of them has been to areas such as the Chilterns. Can’t believe how many you see there now. Used to hardly see any.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Birds have frequently added colour to Royal Mail stamps. Frankly I’m disappointed that stamps have disappeared from the majority of letters etc. that we receive.

I’m not expecting Which? to launch a campaign to bring back stamps but I would be impressed by any organisation that went back to using stamps. Presumably it’s possible to do this by machine.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

Thanks for the reminder about birds featured on Royal Mail stamps. A set of four was issued in 1966 showing the Robin, Blackbird, Black-Headed Gull and Blue Tit. They were all priced at 4d [four old pence – under 2p today] which was probably the correct postage for an ordinary inland letter.

A rather more artistic set was issued in about 1979 featuring the Kingfisher (10p), Dipper (11½p), Moorhen (13p) and Yellow Wagtail (15p). There might have been subsequent Birds series but I don’t seem to have any.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

A web search for UK stamps with birds will turn up other examples.

This site features many British stamps featuring birds: http://www.birdtheme.org/country/greatbri.html It includes the sets mentioned by John. There are other sites that are clearly commercial, so I won’t post links.

My blackbird has now hatched her eggs and there are three large beaks waiting to be fed.

Profile photo of John Ward
Member

In view of my avatar I suppose I ought to be campaigning on behalf of the Cuckoo party but I shall mark my cross against Mr Blackbird as my personal favourite. I call him The Police because he restores order in the garden. He swoops down, c***s his tail feathers, directs his beady eye and issues a strident note; all the other birds then behave themselves again. He skips from point to point inclining his head and pecking at the bugs; he is the most efficient finder and extractor of worms and dutifully carries them off to his family. A recent commotion alerted me to the approach of a cat along the fence above their nest so I had to rush out and speak to the cat, since when there have been no more alarms. The Blackbird’s song from the gable or the chimbley pot is a joy to hear on a Summer evening – it seems to go on without any repetition for twenty minutes or more at a time. One of our Blackbirds has a couple of little white patches in his feathers and he is almost tame, coming to within a very close distance when I’m gardening.

Robin Redbreast is a lovely bird and very popular so I can see why he scores highly. He has a wonderfully loud voice: you can immediately identify the Robin even if you can’t see him amongst the foliage. They are not quite as territorially aggressive as often described as we have at least two pairs in the vicinity and they come really close when I’m doing any digging or hoeing [but never together at the same time].

I also like the Wren, the Wagtail, the Song Thrush, the Magpie and the Rook but I don’t think they quite make the National Bird category.

Profile photo of Paul Ryan
Member

Our neighbour’s cat seems to have taken up virtually permanent residence in our garden, but fortunately seems to have little taste for our feathered friends, so far…..

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

The robin will see it off!

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

In view of the criticism from some quarters levelled at banks, ISPs, washing machine manufacturers, pensions providers, the energy companies, those accused of ignoring the vulnerable, Sony, private dentists……………….perhaps our national bird should be – the Vulture. It is, apparently, an endangered species (so maybe an omen for the aforementioned).

Profile photo of Sophie Gilbert
Member

I would have voted for the Scottish crossbill only because it is our only endemic bird species. Otherwise I love goldcrests because they are so small and lovely, and their distribution is UK-wide (apart from the Northern Isles) and you can see them all year round.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
Member

I’ve noticed this cheeky, little robin fluttering around my gardening for the last two days. I didn’t realise how friendly and brave they could be, perching close to where I was relaxing on the garden furniture last night, or while hanging my washing on the clothes line!

So early this morning, I’ve taken a few snaps on my camera of its activities, which I’m going to edit this afternoon and add to my personal photo portfolio. 😀

Profile photo of Lisa Barber
Member

I also fond of pied wagtails. They delight in hanging out in my local market and are ever so brave – hopping in and out of the crowds, looking for scraps.

And despite ring-necked parakeets being around for a while now, it’s still thrilling to see them flying around as they look so out of place.

Profile photo of wattling
Member

This Question can only be national or regional.
In Scotland it has always been the golden eagle, although not without competition but
On of the competitors now is the sea eagle.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Just an update on ‘my’ baby blackbirds. There were four, not three as I suggested earlier, and they left the nest early yesterday morning. 🙁 I missed watching their departure, having expected it to be a day later.

I did some gardening at the weekend and was followed by a blackbird collecting worms, though I cannot be sure it was for ‘my’ babies.

I don’t believe that anyone nearby has a cat, so hopefully the young birds will survive.

Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

wavechange, you can cut your hedges now. I wonder how many birds we lose from hedges being cut before fledging takes place? It is tempting when they (hedges) grow so quickly and look untidy – but maybe we can be too obsessed with tidy gardens. I’d rather see the wildlife.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I agree, Malcolm. I avoided pruning the pyracantha in case my blackbird returned to use the nest again, which it did. I will now wait until the pyracantha stops flowering before pruning it. At least I got the grass cut. I had not wanted to disturb my baby blackbirds with a noisy petrol mower.

The cotoneasters have been overhanging the front garden wall but I waited until the bees had lost interest.

I used to have thrushes in the garden and they ‘invited the snails out for lunch’. 🙂 The other birds don’t seem interested, unfortunately.

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
Member

Did you get a chance to name them, wavechange? 😀 I’m sure they’ll come fluttering back to your garden when they’ve fully spread their wings (sorry for the pun!)

Profile photo of Andrew Collins
Member

I saw a few robins flying about the Which? office the other day which made me think back to this article on Which? Conversation. Thinking about it, the Hertford office attracts quite a lot of wildlife visitors – from deer to foxes and squirrels, and even noting a couple of ducks which have been spotted sunbathing in the car park. 🙂