Letter from Felixstowe: Robin Red Breast Wins the Vote


Today the BBC and other news sources reported that the robin won an unofficial vote of more than 200,000 people to nominate the UK’s first national bird.

If anyone had asked me about this before, I would have said I thought this lovely little creature was already the country’s national bird – or at least its favourite.

The ornithologist who led the campaign said the robin is ‘entwined in our national psyche.’ Since moving to England, I’ve certainly noticed how often it’s seen on cards, stationery, art prints, children’s books and general merchandise. I think every Christmas card we’ve sent since our move to the UK has had a robin on it, perched on a Royal Mail postbox or a snow-covered fencepost or Christmas tree.

Apparently the robin received 34% of the votes, followed by the barn owl at 12% and the blackbird at 11%. The wren, red kite and kingfisher came 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.

I’m not sure the robin is quite as ‘entwined in the national psyche’ in the U.S., though I’d venture to say it’s also well-loved there, and most of us grew up somehow absorbing the tune and lyrics to ‘When the Red, Red Robin (Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along)’, by American songwriter Harry M. Woods. As far and Clive and know, there are no red-breasted robins in Australia.

We hadn’t realised the UK didn’t have an official national bird. As noted in the news reports (and Wikipedia), the U.S. has the American bald eagle; Australia the emu (unofficial but on the country’s coat of arms); New Zealand the kiwi; India the peacock; and France the Gallic rooster.

Cheering you on, little robin red breast. Whether it’s official or not, you have a special place in the country’s heart.

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

2 Responses

  1. The year I had neighbors from Australia, I think they were most impressed with the blue jay and the cardinal. Early this spring I noticed that many people commented on how glad they were to see their first robin because of the long and brutal winter we had here in central Pennsylvania. I’m still tallying up plants that did not make it through the winter. Personally I am more thrilled when April arrives and the cute and active goldfinches arrive in the yard.

  2. Eleanor, the goldfinches must be adorable! Love them — England also has a lot of gorgeous little songbirds and I’ve learned a lot since living here. We always loved the Aussie birds too — interesting your neighbours liked blue jays and cardinals. Don’t think they are Down Under!

    Cheers and here’s to a lot of nice birds in your garden this year.

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