Can you identify your swallows from your swifts?

Caroline Offord

Thursday 6 April 2017

The British public struggles to identify the nation's birds according to new research commissioned by popular pre-school series Twirlywoos, in partnership with RSPB.

The survey results revealed that over half of the respondents couldn't identify a house sparrow and a third didn't know a greenfinch from a goldfinch. It also highlighted that a quarter of adults thought penne was a species of bird rather than a pasta and two in 10 thought that male and female mallards were completely different species of duck.

Meanwhile a fifth of respondents weren't aware a red kite was a bird - with some believing it was a baddie from batman and others under the impression it was a species of fish. And when asked about the dawn chorus, a number of respondents thought it was the name of Gareth Malone's latest choir.

However the news wasn't all bad. Nine in ten adults had heard of a swift and seven in ten adults knew that a waxwing was a bird - although some thought it was a waterproof coat. And nine in 10 parents said they want their children to learn more about birds and British wildlife in general.

The research of over 2,000 adults, which included 1,265 parents, was commissioned by Twirlywoos, to celebrate a new partnership with RSPB that aims to give families more confidence to get outside and enjoy nature with improved wildlife knowledge.

The RSPB is launching Wild Challenge this Easter, a new online awards scheme encouraging children, families and schools to go out and get closer to nature.

By completing fun activities ranging from minibeast safaris and habitat exploring to making a compost heap and planting for wildlife, participants can discover the wilder side of their own back garden and the great outdoors. It's free, open to all and there are things to do at any time of the year. And you can collect your Wild Challenge bronze, silver and gold awards.

The Twirlywoos follows the adventures of four bird-like creatures who love to explore the world around them providing a perfect fit with the Wild Challenge. The partnership will be supported by Twirlywoos activity sheets, quizzes and information which will sit on the programme's website and provide a useful resource for parents wishing to help their children learn more about nature and birdlife.

A spokesman for Twirlywoos said: "The UK has around 250 different species of bird so it is understandable people struggle when it comes to their bird knowledge. However you don't need to know all there is to know about birds in order to appreciate all that's great about them. The UK has some great locations for seeing amazing birds and other wildlife too so it's well worth spending some time together as a family to see what's out there. We hope our campaign will give parents the tools and confidence to help inspire their children when it comes to the many species of wildlife in our country".

RSPB spokesperson, James Harding-Morris said: "Wildlife has always fascinated people whether it's the thrill of seeing your first robin at a garden feeder or a red kite in the wild. This survey shows that parents want their children to learn more about birds and be able to identify the wildlife on their doorstep . We hope this partnership will give families the confidence to get outside and enjoy nature with their improved wildlife knowledge. The opportunity to connect with nature should be a part of every child's life and the RSPB's new Wild Challenge is here to help every family go on their own wild adventure."

Anne Wood, Founder & Creative Director, Ragdoll Productions Ltd, and co-creator of Teletubbies and Twirlywoos said: "I am particularly delighted to endorse this campaign as I have been a member of the RSPB for many years.

I am fortunate that I have a large garden with shrubs and trees that attract birds of all kinds. Last year when I was gardening I was thrilled to spot a tree creeper which I had never seen before. Listening and looking for birds when I am gardening is a constant pleasure and I am sure the Twirlywoos would agree with me."

Other results from the survey revealed:

• 41 per cent of UK adults consider themselves to have a 'good' knowledge of Britain's feathered friends - and three in five said they are interested in birds.

• The average UK family spends two hours and 57 minutes outside visiting wild places such as the countryside, national parks and beaches each week.

• Three quarters of mums and dads said spending time with their children outside and interacting with nature is a fulfilling way to spend time with them.

To start your wild adventure go to: For helpful activities and information on RSPB's Wild Challenge visit

The Twirlywoos are four, fruit tea-loving, birdlike characters who have sailed from far away to visit our world. Comical, colourful and curious, the Twirlywoos seek adventure and fun wherever they go. Whether in the real world or on their boat, they love to hide, imitate and be surprised as they discover new things.

Twirlywoos airs at 9.25am and 13.25pm every weekday on CBeebies.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: England Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife