Birds Britannia: Garden Birds
Of all Britain’s birds, one particular group has risen to the very top of our affections - those that have chosen to live alongside us, in our gardens. These have become the most familiar (the blue tit), the most loved (the robin), and in some cases, the most hated (magpie and sparrowhawk) of our birds.
It's hardly surprising we are so obsessed with garden birds, for they perform a daily soap opera outside our back window - a soap opera whose characters reflect our own attitudes, prejudices and emotions. These are our most familiar birds - those we see every day, and with which we interact with most in our lives - engendering a very deep and intimate relationship between us and the natural world.
And yet our relationship with garden birds is a surprisingly modern phenomenon. It is the result of some of the most dramatic changes in British society in the last hundred and fifty years.
For we are a nation of gardeners, who have become a nation of garden bird-lovers. Our long and cherished relationship with our gardens, as evinced by the huge popularity of television and radio programmes such as Gardeners' World and Gardeners' Question Time, has undoubtedly helped to influence and define our relationship with the birds that live in our gardens.
Today, two out of three of us feed wild birds in our gardens, spending over £150 million pounds a year in the process. In a sense, this simple act of kindness to our fellow creatures is the entry point into a deeper relationship with wildlife as a whole - a symbiotic relationship bringing mutual benefit, whereby the birds are fed, and we are entertained by watching them.
Yet only a century ago, most of us did not even have gardens. We took little interest in the welfare of our feathered neighbours, and were more likely to eat a blackbird than to feed it. And the very concept of ‘garden birds’ was meaningless - the term hadn’t even been invented yet.
So in little more than a century, an extraordinary transformation has taken place in our relationship with the birds that live alongside us. This domestic drama runs parallel to the history and development of that very British phenomenon, the modern suburban garden. Tune in into the first episode of Birds Britannia to find out how!
Stephen Moss is the Series Producer.