All readers of Arthur Ransome's books are aware of the importance of sailing to the stories, and most are also familiar with the prominent part fishing plays. But the role of birds in the books has been commented on far less. However, birds play an important part in several of the stories and are key to the plots of Coot Club and Great Northern?.
Swallows and Amazons
- Geese on Dixons'Farm
- Cormorants (on Cormorant Island)
- Jays (savage parrots)
- The dipper (at the Secret Harbour)
- Tawny Owl (which Titty mistook for John's owl call)
- Kingfisher (on Cormorant Island)
- Polly? (Okay not a wild bird!)
- Swans (flying to another lake to the west)
- Owl Far away, down in the valley, an owl called (not a mid-day one!) (SD26).
- Red Grouse there'll be grouse shooting all over the moors tomorrow (SD36).
- Great Crested Grebe
- Marsh Harriers (in a food pass)
- Bearded Tits
We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea
They sail down the river in Goblin: Cormorants were on the edge of the mud, like black sentinels. A grey heron was wading. A flock of gulls swung up into the air and round to settle again in almost the same place (WD4). There are pictures at the end of chapters of a gull on a buoy (WD3) and a cormorant with a worm in its beak (WD4,26).
The Big Six
- Great Crested Grebes
- Joe Bill and Pete ask the Ds about the birds of The Lake: Buzzard, kestrel, water-hens, and plenty of herons and kingfishers, but no harriers. And no beardies (bearded tits). So Pete reckons that they were better off where they are (BS22).
The Picts and the Martyrs