Fun Festive Facts

Swan

British record holders

To keep the grey matter working over the festive period, and possibly to give you a competitive edge in quizzes, we’ve compiled a list of British bird-related records. We hope you enjoy them!

The largest British bird is the Mute Swan, which can weigh up to 13.6 kilograms (30lbs). It has an average length of 150 centimetres (59 inches or just under five feet) and a wingspan of up to 2.4 metres (94 inches or seven feet 10 inches).

The Mute Swan also lays the largest egg, weighing 300 grams (11oz) and measuring up to 11.5 x 7cm (4.5 x 2.75in).

The tallest British bird is the Common Crane, with a height of 1.2 metres (four feet).

The largest song bird or passerine in Britain (and the world) is the Raven, which weighs up to 1.5 kilograms (3.3lbs). It has an average length of 64 centimetres (25 inches) and a wingspan up to 1.35 metres (53 inches or nearly four and a half feet).

The smallest British bird is the Goldcrest, at 9 centimetres (3.5 inches) long and weighing less than five grams (one fifth of an ounce). That’s about the same as a 20 pence piece. If you put a standard Mars Bar on a set of balancing scales and kept adding Goldcrests to the other side, the Mars Bar wouldn’t move until the 13th Goldcrest hopped on!

The fastest British bird is the Peregrine Falcon, which has been claimed to reach over 300km/h (190mph) in a steep dive, although ornithologists have never recorded a speed above 180km/h (112mph) which is still very quick – about three and a half bus lengths per second!

The fastest in level flight record holder is the Eider Duck with an official record
speed of 76.5km/h (47.5mph), fast enough to get a speeding ticket on most roads in
Shrewsbury.

Another duck, the Red-breasted Merganser, has been claimed to reach
129km/h (over 80mph) in short bursts to escape danger.

The Eider Duck is also famous for having the funniest call of any British bird, sounding like a scandalised Frankie Howerd! You can hear it on the Xeno-Canto website.

The highest flying birds in Britain were a flock of Whooper Swans seen at 8,200 metres (26,650 feet) over the Hebrides in 1967.

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The loudest British bird is the Bittern which has a deep booming call that can be heard up to 8 kilometres (5 miles) away.

The fastest bird to grow up and leave home is the Corn Bunting which takes just nine days from hatching to leaving the nest.

The oldest British wild bird was a Manx Shearwater which was recaptured by bird ringers 50 years, 11 months and 21 days after it was first ringed. The bird was ringed as an adult so the bird was probably at least 53 years old when last handled.

These amazing birds breed on islands around Britain but spend the winter in the South Atlantic. Young birds make their first flight alone and at night, and bird ringing studies have shown that some of them make this journey of up to 11,200 kilometres (7,000 miles) in less than a fortnight.

The oldest song bird was a Rook which was ringed as a nestling and found dead 22 years and 11 months later.

The oldest garden bird was a Starling which was ringed in its first autumn and found dead 2,000km away in Russia 17 years, 7 months and 25 days later.

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