The Big Five British Bird Species

James Walsh @MancunianBirder

Africa has long had its famous "Big Five" is it time the UK did too?

It is high time that the British Tourism industry got organised and really started to promote EcoTourism as a new industry.

With “staycation” becoming a really big buzzword, an environmentally sustainable domestic EcoTourism industry is a potential way forward in the British Isles.

Our environment is unique, we have a temperate, Northern hemisphere climate, one big endemic bird species - the Red Grouse, truly stunning habitats, some amazing resident bird species, we have distinct seasons and millions of migrant birds grace our environment.

Birding is becoming more and more popular, witness the annual Birdfair, the popularity of Springwatch and growth in wild bird magazines and social media groups.

With all this in mind, I have selected a “British Big Five Bird Species” to represent the British environment and EcoTourism industry.

My “British Big Five Bird Species” are the Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus), Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Red Kite (Milvus milvus) and the Robin (Erithacus rubecula).

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus)

Red Grouse Lochindorb

The symbol of “British Birds” magazine, this endemic bird represents the moorlands of the British Isles, including Scotland, Northern England and Wales.

Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

Golden Eagle distant silhouette

A majestic bird of prey that represents the highlands. The unofficial national bird of Scotland.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Avocets Minsmere

A conservation success story. This wading bird is the symbol of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. An elegant bird of marshes and estuaries.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Oystercatcher Cemlyn

Should this replace Avocet in our Big Five as it is the National Bird of Northern Ireland? Avocet could form part of an "English Big Five"? Be great to hear your thoughts.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Red Kites 8 July 2013

A raptor that is the unofficial national bird of Wales This bird nearly became extinct in Britain and has benefited from several re-introduction programmes.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Robin at RSPB Conwy

Voted the UK’s favourite bird species. A garden bird that is very familiar to many British people.

Within the choices I have attempted to select a balance of habitats, the Red Grouse represents the moorlands, the Golden Eagle represents the highlands, the Avocet represents wetlands, the Red Kite is a bird of the valleys and farmland, and the Robin represents urban, suburban and rural habitats, especially the parks and gardens. All of the species selected are resident species. I suggest a tour that included all these species would give the tourist a really good look at a variety of British habitats.

You could also make a case for bird species such as Hen Harrier, White-tailed Eagle, Grey Heron, Bittern, Skylark, Song Thrush, Buzzard, Osprey, Ptarmigan, Twite, Northern Lapwing, Golden Plover, Gannet, Kingfisher, Wren, Kittiwake, Whinchat, Oystercatcher and Crane, these are all wonderful British birds.

A “British Big Five Bird Species” could potentially stimulate much-needed investment in the conservation and Eco-Tourism industry, it is blue sky thinking that can be a focal point when highlighting the economic case for the environment, bringing ecology and economy together in a positive, progressive manner.

I have been lucky to conduct practical research of the global Eco-Tourism industry and I believe it is time to tell the world about our amazing British birds!


United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration

Keep the Red Grouse flying

Robin tops poll to find UK’s national bird

African Eco-Tourism, Botswana

Australian Eco-Tourism, Cairns, Tropical North Australia

James Walsh, aka The Mancunian Birder, has an Ecology degree, two Tourism qualifications and has conducted extensive research of the global Eco-Tourism industry.

Twitter: @MancunianBirder

YouTube: Mancunian Birder

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