Britain's best birds.


Beast of Burden
This is a hardcore, minority thread I realise.

Luka, Jim! Join me!

I hate lists. So I made one. To start a debate, somewhat poetic after this prosaic list, I hope.

I reckon they are, from best down:

1. Osprey
2. Arctic Tern
3. Blackbird
4. Peregrine Falcon
5. Oystercatcher
6. Barn Owl
7. Lapwing
8. Swift
9. Magpie
10. Pheasant

Add your own! Challenge the list! Or agree! Or whatever!

I know this is the worst way to introduce the topic, but I've waited long enough.

By the way Jim, when are we coming around for dinner?


Well-known member
there's the best ones i've seen, then there's the ones that look the most glamourous in the books.

i like herons and great crested grebe for grace
i love crows and rooks and ravens
particularly in the mist or fog, for gothic atmospherics

i love teeming hordes of starlings, they remind me of fagin's boys, a crafty mob
robins, for being heartening, they're friendly
blackbirds for their song and always being in sweet, fatihful couples, for the males glossy black feathers and bright yellow beak
kestrels for being a suprise anytime you see them hovering over city streets
magpies, for their pomp and finery, a theif in kings clothing
kingfishers-=the most magical bird i've ever seen, that flash of irridescence
pied and grey wagtails for their constant twitchy movements, like athletes, too fit to stay still
swallows, housemartins for the skill, beauty and joy of their flight
you have to have swans, eh?
greenfinches and goldfinches

then there's all the birds i haven't seen
owls, eagles, skuas, buzzards, ruffs, lapwings, bitterns, woodpeckers, golden orioles, hoopoes and bee eaters that look pretty ficking amazing in the illustrations
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I see one about every 6 months in the garden and they always look brilliant with that blue flash on their wings. Makes an exotic change from all the blackbirds and magpies and blue tits.

matt b

Indexing all opinion
jays are pretty fantastic, as are green woodpeckers.

round our way the best birds, by far are curlews-in the summer they are all over the valley, nesting in fields etc and have a swooping/ haunting/ beautiful call. lapwings are good too-they harrass sparrowhawks if they come near their nest- like a dogfight. (oyster catchers are 10 a penny)

i quite like partridges, esp when they fly up in your face when you're running through the heather.

i saw a bearded tit down by the river. long tail. unless it was a long tailed tit. then the tail while still long, was less impressive.

i cannot recommend enough a journey to the farne islands (off newcastle) in the breeding season: you'll see people running around waving their hands over their heads and getting dive bombed by terns (expect a bloody head), nearly step on eider ducks who simply sit by the side of the path and see 1000s of guilimots, cormorants, shags, razor bills, puffins etc. it fcuking stinks

i like gannets personally. stunning and they dive bomb the water/ fish rather than you/me
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matt b

Indexing all opinion
twitchers will be going mental over that. wierd buggers, they are (twitchers). they once turned up in their 100s on our (suburban) street to see some african bird that had been blown off course.
it was like a bill oddie cloning experiment.

shaun L

I'm right into winter migrants... fieldfares, redwings, y'know perching birds --- none of that wader arkana...

its like- in comes Winter, S.A.D starts kicking in and then BOSCH -- nice to see ya guys, at last something thinks that wet cold miserable days are worth flying across the North sea for.

Saw some Waxwings t'other day... like overfed starlings with serious psychobilly quiffs. Salute.


1) Red kite - a flying door with third reich wings.
2) Blue tit.... aaaah blessum... feathered woodland elves
3) Fieldfare - a roxy music mistle thrush
4) Chough - flies like a jackdaw - talks like a gull. nice red bill
5) Lapwings - nice paintjob, always seem to be about to fall out the air, WTF is that call all about? like a semantic swanee whistle.
6) Jays - of course.. top plumage.. going against the corvid grain --- yet compensating for polychrome dandyism by sounding like a serial killer pig.
7) Ravens - Iron age Europe can't be wrong.

I could do with seeing some hornbills or vultures but they're quite rare in the peak district.
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Beast of Burden
I started this thread at 2.25 am on a Tuesday morning in 2004. I can only imagine how much I'd have drunk by that point.


All the same ones... I love seeing kingfishers on the rare occasions I do. I think my best sighting was swimming in Hampstead Heath and there was one sitting on a branch above the pond that allowed almost right underneath it just a few feet away. Jays also very colourful, saw a green woodpecker on my parents' lawn last time I went back. Love the excitement caused by the release of all those huge red kites and of course hovering kestrels. In holidays to Orkney, Shetlands and Hebrides I've seen a golden eagle, an osprey and a gyrfalcon which were all impressive but I don't really think of those as birds you can see in the Britain that I lived in. I've always had a soft spot for waders - I think when I first watched birds a curlew or something was maybe the first I identified with binoculars and a bird book - and avocets are very graceful but maybe my favourite of all, to see standing or flying, is a heron, there is something so evocative about them (although I don't know of quite what).


I remember being very excited at a Welsh pond once when we saw a wood duck and a mandarin duck, I was just amazed that such colourful and exotic birds could be wild in the UK. But I think they've been introduced.


Also sea birds I've loved watching in the Scottish and Welsh islands; gannets, great skuas (called bonxys I think in Orkney) and arctic skuas, puffins, guillemots and so on6


Beast of Burden
I'm quite good at spotting and naming stuff off the cuff. When I was a child I knew the Field Guide for Britain inside out, a lot of which stays with you, like a language you've learnt. Every time I try to "go" bird watching, though, with binoculars, it's a disaster: nothing to see. In that sense, I'm an abysmal bird watcher, I'm like a curse.