Britain Votes for National Bird

September 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

While the subspecies of the European robin (Erithacus rubecula melophilus), more commonly known as the ‘robin redbreast’, is widely considered to be Britain’s national bird, the fact is that that there is at present no official bird for the United Kingdom, and with a vote currently underway, the robin redbreast may very well find itself dethroned in favor of one of the other fifty-nine bird species voters can choose from. Voting for the top six contenders closes at midnight on the 31st of October, and re-opens in January 2015, when the field of six will be narrowed down to one which will receive the title of Britain’s National Bird on the day of the general election in May 2015.

The European robin was first described by renowned Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carl Linnaeus in his 18th century journal Systema Naturae where he built upon the formal system of naming species devised by 16th century Swiss botanists Gaspard and Johann Bauhin to make a detailed record of the Animal Kingdom, Plant Kingdom and Mineral Kingdoms.

Measuring between 12.5 and 14 cm in length, male and female robins are similar in features, with orange-red breast and face, bluish-grey on the sides of the neck and chest, grey-brown upperparts and a whitish belly. A familiar sight around Britain, robins are insectivorous and are welcomed by gardeners as they feed on garden pests, although beneficial insects, of course, are also on the menu. They are quite unafraid of being around people and will also eat seed mixtures in backyard feeders. During breeding season, male robins become very territorial and may viciously attack intruding birds. They are known to nest in some unusual places, including disused barbecues, machinery, watering cans, flower pots and other items. They use moss, leaves, grass and other items to make the nest, and line it with hair, feathers, finer grass and anything else that is soft. The female lays between two or three clutches of eggs in the breeding season, each of which may consist of five or six eggs. Mortality rate in the first year of life is high, but robins have been known to live as long as 12 years if they make it past the first vulnerable 12 months.

Among the contenders for the title of Britain’s National Bird are the mute swan, mallard, tufted duck, eider, red grouse, pheasant, great crested grebe, gannet, cormorant, grey heron, golden eagle, osprey, red kits, hen harrier, buzzard, kestrel , peregrine, avocet, oystercatcher, lapwing, curlew, snipe, herring gull, puffin, feral pigeon, wood pigeon, turtle dove, ring-necked parakeet, cuckoo, tawny owl, barn owl, swift, kingfisher, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, swallow, pied wagtail, waxwing, wren, robin, nightingale, black redstart, song thrush, blackbird, blackcap, chiffchaff, blue tit, long-tailed tit, magpie, jay, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and yellowhammer.