We have plenty to be proud of in Britain – we’re stuck in the cultural doldrums, our government is corrupt and ineffectual, and our public voted Nick Griffin and one of his BNP cronies into the European parliament. Rule Britannia! Oh no wait, I’m confusing pride and shame again aren’t I?

But in ‘the current climate’ (how I hate that vague catch-all term. It’s so overused I’m just waiting for the day when I walk past an H&M and see ‘NOT IN THE CURRENT CLIMATE’ plastered across a t-shirt), we can take pleasure from the simple things; the smell of a rose, a child’s laughter, and the upbeat tweeting of the birds.


Yes, at least the Birds of Britain are keeping their end up and giving us a reason to be cheerful.

Birds are great, they fly around with a certain nonchalant ‘fuck you’ attitude, going where they please and doing what they feel. They’re also not bad to look at either - all sleek and pointy.

On the whole I’ve always been a bit of a bird fan (or ornithologist if you want to sound intelligent). My dad’s hobby was falconry and we always had a few birds knocking round the house – an owl here, a falcon there. So when other boys were out chasing girls, I was in watching birds.

But my point is that you don’t have to be a hardcore birdman like Bill Oddie to enjoy the feathery tweeters. And if you want to get all nationalistic and riled up about something, it might as well be about something nice like birds, instead of something nasty like sending brown people back where they came from.

So to get you started I have composed this rough guide to the birds you will probably encounter on your day-to-day wonderings.

(left - male, right - female)



The Blackbird is the most common garden bird and, pound for pound, is probably the most entertaining. It’s a lively character with a distinctive song, but don’t let the name fool you - the female blackbird is actually a drab brown colour, while the male is the a handsome jet black with contrasting orange bill.

In fashion terms, it is common in the bird world for the males to outshine the females in colour and overall jazzy-ness. It’s all to do with breeding and getting the girl birds to come round to your nest. It’s much like in the chav world where the guy with the whitest brightest trainers always get the buffest yat.

(left - male, right - juvenile)



Starlings are the bird equivalent of cockneys - cheeky chappies with a loud and distinctive song (or accent if you will), an opportunist outlook, and a garish plumage that reminds me slightly of  a pearly king or queen.

At my high school they used to fly into the bins to scavenge for food, then scare girls by suddenly flying out when they went to throw away their crisp packets – much like cockneys.

(left - male, right - juvenile)



The robin is a bird Britain can be proud of. With it’s bright red breast it’s reminds me of an English bruiser returning from a week on the Costa del Sol, proudly showing off their suntan that will soon morph into life-threatening melanoma.

Punching well above its weight, this feisty little character is fiercely territorial and will fight off rivals with great vigor. Their natural habitat is perched on the handle of a garden pitchfork just around Christmas time.

(left - male, right - female)



As Stewart Lee previously observed, Mallards are the only bird to reproduce exclusively by gang rape. Although this may not be something to be proud of, I think you’ll agree that in this act, the mallard has captured a part of what it is to be British.

Also, here’s a fact for you - only female ducks are actually called ‘ducks’, male ducks are called ‘drakes’, probably not after Sir Frances Drake. So next time you’re in a park and a friend says, ‘oh look a duck’, you can smugly bust out this knowledge and shame them for their ignorance. (be warned - doing this may cause you to lose all your friends).



Commonly referred to as ‘rats of the sky’, if you live in London they are probably going to be the only birds you are ever likely to see. But smile, you’re in our nations capital. Enjoy the culture, go to a gallery or a bar, and if you really have a hankering to see birds, it’s free to get into the Natural History Museum.



The most common bird of prey in the UK is the kestrel and you’ve probably seen one hovering next to the motorway but I first remember seeing one in The Animals of Farthing Wood, which by the way was amazing!

Preying upon mice and voles, these clever birds can actually see rodent urine from the air, as they can see UV light which makes urine glow. Interesting hey?

(left - male, right - juvenile)

Tawny Owl


Last, but by no means least, the wise old Tawny Owl. I had a pet tawny owl called Berty when I was younger. He was the best pet I ever had, and on special occasions we would let him in the house. He’d sit a’top the bookcase in the kitchen and the only way you could temp him to move was to lure him down with a box of tissues - he loved destroying tissues.

If you can get a pet owl, do, because they’re ace. Or why not head of to your local owl sanctuary.

So there it is, my guide to the best of Britain’s birds. Now get off the computer and go enjoy some nature.