To give you a break from the election campaign, over the next ten days I shall be profiling the ten birds in the shortlist for David Lindo's Vote National Bird Campaign.  Today, Stuart Winter (journalist and 'Birdman' for the Sunday Express) urges you to vote for the robin.

Adjectives attach themselves to the much-loved robin with the same robustness as this most endearing of birds defends its territory.

Chest-pumping, chirpy, cheeky, cocky... And these are just words that start with the letter C! The robin has become a flying thesaurus with its devotees only too willing to find increasingly flattering ways to pay homage to its countless attributes.

What’s more, the characteristics that robins display so vividly as they brighten our gardens with their flaming breasts and sibilant song are  those we value most in not just other people but in our island race: small of stature but big of heart; friendly, loyal and endearing yet belligerent and uncompromising to all those who dare extinguish its vitality or threaten its domain. Robins are the avian embodiment of John Bull, Britannia and any other British hero you care to mention. Little wonder that most celebrated legendary figure of them all, the scourge of the Sheriff of Nottingham and the leader of Sherwood Forest’s Merry Men, was called Robin.

The redbreast’s place in our rich literary history – Chaucer, Blake and Wordsworth, who mentions robins in no fewer than 14 of his poems – is matched by the way we associate the species with our most sacred holidays. Not only is the robin a mainstay of Christmas celebrations, it is a symbol of resurrection, the redness of its breast stained by the blood of Christ.

In 1961 the robin was chosen as our unofficial national bird after the British Section of the International Council for Bird Preservation were tasked with finding a suitable candidate, a challenge played out in the letter pages of The Times. Six decades on it is time to honour the robin for time immemorial with official recognition as the National Bird of Great Britain and by Act of Parliament, if need be. God Save the Queen. God Save the Robin.  



  • I have indeed voted for this wonderful little bird - there are some fantastic birds on the final shortlist but the sheer beauty and attitude of the robin made it an obvious winner for me.