A campaign is underway to vote for Britain’s National bird.
The incumbent Robin (for anyone living to the west of the Atlantic, this is a European Robin, but it is such a popular and well known bird here, it needs no introduction), was enthroned during the 60’s and although it is (in my opinion) an excellent choice, it was not chosen by an open vote, so the British public now has the opportunity to express their preference in a campaign spearheaded by David Lindo, AKA The Urban Birder.
David has narrowed the field to 60 candidates which will be whittled down to 6 for the final vote. Some surprising entries include birds which only spend a few fleeting weeks in our country, but to exclude summer visitors would eliminate the Swallow (Britain has only one Swallow and has no need to specify it as a Barn Swallow) from the election and that would be wrong. Of course the (again just the one, Common) Cuckoo, one of our most anticipated migrants, is a bye-word for all things British and must be considered.
Also included is an alien invader, the (again, Britain’s lack of diversity in Psittacula species makes the prefix, Rose-ringed, unnecessary) Parakeet. Immigration will be a contentious part of our political elections next year and it seems odd that this bitterly divisive issue should be a part of an alternative election designed to divert us from the machinations of the politicians.
Strangely, the Great Tit has been omitted from the first round of voting. This is one of Britain’s best known birds and is well regarded as a problem solver and acrobatic crowd pleaser. To leave Parus major out of the reckoning is surely a terrible oversight.
The election will be determined by universal suffrage, with even prisoners, the insane and members of the House of Lords entitled to make their mark. Whilst it is considered unconstitutional for the reigning monarch to cast a vote in parliamentary elections, Her Majesty would be very welcome to take part in this poll and we shall be keenly watching her new Twitter feed to see if she reveals her preference. Go on Ma’am, give us a X.
Many of the votes cast will come from beyond the world of twitching and list-keeping, so the common and garden birds are likely to do well. I would predict that the Wren (we have the Winter Wren in case you need to ask), Blackbird (Eurasian) and Blue Tit will all do very well.
But ultimately I doubt if the Robin will lose its seat. It is out there now canvassing, European Robins are the only British bird to defend a territory during the darker months and it sings through the chill to declare its presence. Its manifesto is a jumble of light, slightly scratchy notes (thank you to Xeno Canto for the sound recording), including trills and squeaks. A strong publicity campaign will keep the Robin at the forefront of everyone’s mind during the winter. Featuring on Christmas cards, wrapping paper and gift tags will promote a popular image and with no other birds making an effort on the hustings at this time of year, this candidate would surely be returned to power with an increased majority if the election were to be decided soon.
But the final vote on the short-list of 6 will not close until May 7th 2015, timed to provide a bit of relief from the parliamentary elections. By this time, all the candidates will be knocking on doors and singing their own sweet song, trying to influence the electorate. Where would you place your money?