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.

Interesting RSPB Survey Results

August 23, 2011 by  
Filed under News

The RSPB’s wildlife survey would not be possible if not for the loyal participation of the public, who assist in the Make Your Nature Count project. The survey began on the 4th of June and ran to the 12th of June, involving over fifty thousand gardens. Due to the assistance of the participants, the RSPB Make Your Nature Count project could collect the necessary information to compile a report on a variety of bird species to determine how successful the breeding season was. The feedback was extremely positive.

Once all the data was received, it showed that there was an increase in the breeding of robins, and that there was a ten percent increase in song thrushes in gardens across the United Kingdom. The organizer of the RSPB Make Your Nature Count, Richard Bashford, commented that it was very exciting to see the increase of song thrushes, blackbirds and robins, as it means that weather conditions were ideal during the breeding season. Since 2010, blackbirds had increased by fifteen percent. Bashford said that even though the numbers of the song thrushes had increased, it is important to remember that they did go through a period of decline and are slowly beginning to recover and have a far way to go before their numbers are satisfying, even though there are not any guarantees that the same favorable outcome will appear next year. House sparrows also seemed to increase by approximately twenty percent, but are still to be watched carefully. Thirty percent increases were recorded for chaffinches and blue tits.

The survey was performed in rural areas, urban and suburban areas and it was also the first time the public participants were asked to be on the lookout for grass snakes and bats. Almost one in fifty of the participating members reported grass snakes and they are more likely to be found in rural areas. Thirty-three percent of the participants also reported bats. As an added request they were also asked to take note of toads and frogs, as there had been a decline in their numbers over the last two years. The wildlife in any garden impacts the environment, and through the voluntary services of the public the RSPB is able to conduct their surveys and compile their reports to keep constant records on the various species.

Shifting Migrations Might Indicate Global Warming

February 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

Each year thousands of citizens in the US get involved with the annual Christmas bird count. They are not professional birders, but their counts do help biologists and other researchers to get a better idea of the grand scale of things. Over time this count has revealed that almost 60 percent of migratory birds are spending their winters further north than they did forty years ago.

According to studies, the American Robin and White-throated Sparrow are just two of the 305 bird species examined which showed a dramatic northward shift in their annual migratory patterns. While this does not prove global warming in itself, it is consistent with the sort of behavior you’d expect to take place in direct reaction to a steadily warming climate. The concern is not so much for the birds themselves, but for other non-migratory bird species and animals that are left behind to suffer through the heat. Kenn Kaufman, field editor for Audubon Magazine, stressed the interdependence of everything in an ecosystem when he said about the trend: “Everything is connected. Birds are not isolated; it’s an ecosystem. It’s a system and something that happens in one area is going to affect everything else.”

While bird ranges can change for a number of different reasons, such as urban sprawl, supplemented diets and deforestation, researchers have noted that the most likely explanation for why so many different migratory birds over such a broad area are choosing to winter further north is most likely global warming. The shift is not just affecting one or two species from one or two areas – its affecting a large number of species from a large number of areas. The phenomenon is simply too widespread to be attributed entirely to only one localized cause.

So where does the report released by the National Audubon Society leave bird lovers? It refreshes in our minds the need to not contribute to the many factors causing global warming. Not only can we change our own lifestyles and encourage others to do likewise, but if we live in an area where there are non-migratory birds, we can try to be aware of their needs, providing them with food, water and shelter so that they can survive the conditions as best as possible.