Britain's national bird: Red kite, puffin or robin? Voting opens to decide

Members of the public get the chance to choose our favourite feathered friend

America has the bald eagle, France the Gallic rooster and India the peacock – but when it comes to national birds, Britain is notably lacking.

That looks set to change, however, thanks to a campaign devised by a leading ornithologist. David Lindo, the broadcaster also known as “The Urban Birder”, is asking Britons to pick their favourite bird from a shortlist of 10 – including red kites, kingfishers and, of course, robin redbreasts.

Members of the public have until general election day on 7 May to choose which British bird they would like to see represent the country, with barn owls, blue tits, wrens and blackbirds also in the running.

Mr Lindon says he will pass on the result of the vote to the Queen and the new Prime Minister – and lobby them to instate the winner as the UK’s national bird.

“I feel embarrassed as someone who lives in the United Kingdom that we don’t have a national bird. The US has had one since 1776, while places like Sweden, Latvia, Bhutan, Jamaica, Mexico all have one and we haven’t. We’re supposed to be the national leaders when it comes to being animal lovers. It’s high time we put our money where our mouths are,” he said.

 

One of the less-common birds on the shortlist is the hen harrier, which preys on grouse. It faces extinction in England, in part because it is being illegally shot and trapped to maximise grouse populations for hunting.

Its presence on the shortlist raises the prospect of the UK having a national bird that is so rare it doesn’t actually breed in England,  and may already be extinct, Mr Lindo says. This would mean the hen harriers spotted in England are only “wintering” after breeding elsewhere in the UK.

“It would be fantastic if the hen harrier did become the national bird because it would increase its chances of survival,” he said.

“It could put more pressure on people to do something, since the campaign against illegally hunting it seems to have had little effect.”

Mr Lindon predicted that the robin would be “clear favourite” for the national bird crown, followed by the kingfisher, the barn owl and the wren.

Votes can be cast at the Vote National Bird website.

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