National Bird: Gallic Rooster
Say what you will about the French and their strange choice of national bird- they are strong and consistent in their love and appreciation of chickens. The Gallic Rooster or le coq gaulois, is not only the national bird, but a symbol of the nation itself. The rooster's french phonetic cry, cocorico, is sometimes shouted as an expression of patriotic pride. Think U! S! A! (French people sound off in the comments if you have every made this sound). This rooster love goes way, way back, like to the Middle Ages, and is more than I'm going to get into in a blog ostensibly about the World Cup, but you can check Wikipedia for more detail. Anyway, not only do they have a love of their national bird, it is already tied thematically into sports and football. The French National rugby team uses the coq as it's mascot, and when the World Cup was in France in 1998, the mascot was a rooster named Footix.
Number of Bird Species: 591
Bird Liking Quotient: 1.629
What would soccer analysis be without reliance on some extremely dubious, but scientific sounding metrics. Here we've taken data from Avibase's Bird Checklists of the World. This number includes all sorts of rarities, introduced species, and migrants, making it hopefully the most optimistic possible number of types of birds you could see there. The bird liking quotient is a little less straightforward, but involves dividing the national population by the number of hits you get when you google "Birding in France". I know that sounds like a crazy way to measure something, but you can't argue with statistics. France, by the way, does pretty well by these metrics, being 2nd in bird diversity and 3rd in birding enthusiasm
|J. G. Keulemans, 1885|
Endemic Species? Corsican Nuthatch, Corsican Finch
Best Birding Spot? Corsica obvs
The French island of Corsica has to be a lock for best place to go birding, since it has two species you'll find nowhere else in the world, along with a host of other rarities. The Mediterranean island gives you a good chance for a whole variety of seabirds, along with a bunch of others. France has put up a strong showing and is clearly the country to beat.
|Andreas Trepte, c/o Wikipedia|
National Bird: Common Kestrel
Don't let the name fool you, this bird is anything but common. Closely related to your beloved friend, the American Kestrel, this bird is a master hunter of stealth and agility. The Kestrel has long been associated with prowess in battle and mastery of aerial combat. If you still don't know who this bird is maybe you'd prefer his latin name, which translates to Screeching Sickle, or his alternate names Eurasian Kestrel, Windhover, Windcuffer, or something even ruder that won't be making an appearance on this family-friendly blog.
Number of Bird Species: 457
An impressive BLQ cannot hide a subpar number of birds for Belgium, leaving the relatively small nation at a disadvantage. What if we corrected for nation size by even more bird math? Dividing number of recorded bird species by area, we come up with a metric France scores .0024 while Belgium gets a much more respectable .0388 (the highest number among the competitors). We'll call this number Bird Species Density, of BSD.
|photo by Natuurpunt|
Best Place to Go Birding? Groenwaecke Polders
The first line of the first website hit by a google search was "Belgium is probably not the best country for birding" Thanks for the honesty, fatbirder.com, but that means it's not looking good for the underdogs and their delicious waffles. There are some choice spots though, including a shipping port that hosts the largest tern colonies in Western Europe. I'm going to go with Groenwaecke Polders, however, since in winter it attracts tens of thousands of pink-footed and white-fronted geese, along with a who's who of other European birds. I'd check it out for sure, if I was in Belgium.
|Carlos Delgado c/o Wikipedia|
So no, this is not a particularly interesting looking bird, but it is famous. The Nightingale's melancholy song has been described as one of the most beautiful sounds in nature, and this has given it prominence in a whole variety of classical art, literature, and poetry. An artist's bird, Shakespeare, Keats, and Shelley all had poems comparing the artist to the nightingale, and vise-versa. Even Beethoven got in on the act, mimicking the birds call with flutes in his Pastoral Symphony. The Nightingale appears on the Croatian 1 Kuna coin, making it analogous to America's positioning of Abraham Lincoln. A pretty great bird, but can it SPORTS?
Number of Bird Species: 408
With the mightiest BLQ we've seen so far, and an impressive BSD, Croatia presents itself as a plucky challenger to it's competitors. Still, that's not a lotta birds. Let's see if Croatia can offer anything to make up for that deficit.
Endemic Species? Nah
Best Place to Go Birding? The Lastovo Archipelago
Unlike Belgium, there seems to be a fair amount of info about birding Croatia on the internet- perhaps Croatia is in an active push to attract nature-based tourism in a way that Belgium isn't. Either way, CroatiaBirding.hr describes it as an 'emerging birding destination', and I'm inclined to believe them. The country's unique shape means that is has land in the mountains and a long stretch of Adriatic Sea coastline. It's also within both the central and western European migration corridor, leading to an unusual diversity of birds. The unique geographical features mean that Croatia is home to 78 endangered bird species, more than any other small or medium sized European country. Again I'll quote the Fat Birder "undoubtedly one of the pearls of European birding". If I had to pick one spot, it would be the Lastovo Archipelago, which houses the unique colonies unique in Europe of Yelkouan Shearwaters and Eleonoras Falcons.
|Emmanuel Douzery c/o Wikipedia|
My antipathy for the American Robin is well known by this point, but I just can't feel the same way about this little guy. What a cutie! A classic and classy choice for national bird for sure, and seems to capture the English character. One quibble- with Brexit looming, will a bird with 'European' in the name still be allowed in the country? The Robin is a prominent figure in folklore, and British folklore specifically (a good sign for a national bird). A couple great folkloric theories about the Robin's red breast- it sang into Jesus' ear to comfort him as he was up on the cross and was thus stained with his blood OR the Robin was bringing water to souls suffering in purgatory and his breast was singed. The Robin sure is metal in these conceptions. He is the symbol of several English and Welsh football clubs, so you know he's got experience.
Number of Bird Species: 628
The number of bird species just crushes here, and may be a deciding factor for England (which, for the purposes of these calculations, includes the greater United Kingdom). The BLQ and BSD are both higher than the other top 4 birding (and football) powerhouse France's are, but they still aren't close to the enthusiasm and sheer bird density seen in the smaller countries.
|Richard Crossley c/o Wikipedia (this picture was too wild not to use, sorry to your eyes)|
Endemic Species? Scottish CrossbillBest Place to Go Birding? Isle of Rum
Here again you can see the inherent advantage in birding that the UK gets for being a series of relatively widely spread island nations. If Scottland was an independent nation, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now. Regardless of how England acquired it, the existence of an endemic species is a real leg up in the competition. While there are many great birds to be found across the varying islands of the UK (including Puffins in Northern Ireland!), I'm going to give it to the Isle of Rum, where you can find the White-tailed Eagle, a magnificent bird of prey even larger than the Golden Eagle (which you can also find there). The islands are also home to an insane number of Manx Shearwaters.
Alright, so that should be everything you need to figure out exactly how the final four will play out! Wait, you wanted ME to do the predicting? Fine, fine, let me just run all those numbers through the Football9000 Supercomputer
Beep Boop Borp
and here we go, the order of finish in the 2018 World Cup, based EXCLUSIVELY on bird data
Congratulations to England on it's victory (the Puffins pushed it over the top by .02%). The calculations were so close, however, that if England doesn't technically include Scottland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, it falls all the way to third place, behind Croatia. So it would look like
Of course we could also see a fluctuation in France's place in the standings, depending on whether or not the Island of Corsica should really count as France.It'd be an upset but we could be looking at
Well, with that definitively settled, we offer our congratulations to either England or France or Croatia, great job in the 2018 Birld Cup!