Bird conservationist prepares to march through London wearing only paint

A conservationist is preparing to march through London wearing nothing but paint to resemble a bird as part of a campaign to support declining species in the UK.

Hannah Bourne-Taylor, 36, will launch a petition on Saturday asking to make “swift bricks” compulsory in new housing developments part of her campaign, The Feather Speech, which is supported by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the charity Rewriting Extinction.

Ms Bourne-Taylor, from London, will make a speech at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park at midday before marching to Downing Street.

It comes after her nature memoir Fledging went viral earlier this year following the publication of a newspaper article detailing how she reared a baby bird and let it nest in her hair for 84 days.

Speaking to the PA news agency as she got ready on Saturday morning, the author and conservationist said: “I’m feeling quite cold, I’m feeling quite weird that I’m naked and reasonably apprehensive about what’s to come but I’m excited.”

Ms Bourne-Taylor said the renowned artist Guido Daniele started painting her at 8am on Friday, adding she had to try to avoid smudging it as she slept overnight.

Asked why she is staging the protest unclothed and resembling a bird, she said: “Because I’m a person of no influence so when it comes to the environmental crisis, I feel completely helpless as an everyday person and I suddenly realised that I could change that if I could use visual imagery.”

“So the Feather Speech is all about how there are leading scientists and an world-renowned artist coming together for the birds.

“And I know that visual imagery can be very powerful, it can also be very positive and hopeful and this is not a disruptive campaign.

“And even though at the heart of it is something incredibly heartbreaking, which are these birds which are facing national extinction – a bit of a doom and gloom story – this body image is beautiful and positive and seeks to find the connection between us and the birds that live in our walls.”

Ms Bourne-Taylor added that she has “Lady Godiva” hair, hoping that the combination will “change the fate of these birds”.

She said the petition, which she hopes 100,000 people will sign so it will be debated in Parliament, is calling for “swift bricks” in all new housing developments because they are proven to be beneficial nesting environments for four red-listed species – swifts, house sparrows, house martins and starling.

Their decline is directly correlated with development projects despite not being acknowledged in the government’s Biodiversity Net Gains, Ms Taylor-Bourne said.

“I love these birds. The idea of them not being in British skies is a nightmare, much more than being naked in public subject to ridicule,” she said.

The conservationist also said the wider aim is to “try to engage everybody in this country”.

“If we all looked up and looked out for these birds, we wouldn’t need a change of policy to help protect them so it’s about creating awareness,” she said.

“These birds are epic, they are iconic. They come with their screening parties and their iconic silhouettes.”

“They’re worth fighting for, they’re worth it to me and they’re worth it to a lot of people,” she said, adding: “Every bird counts.

RSPB executive director Emma Marsh said: “Swifts are one of many species desperately in need of our help.

“More than half have disappeared from UK skies in just 20 years, partly because of a lack of suitable nesting sites.

“As Hannah’s amazing campaign highlights, swift bricks should be compulsory in all new housing developments,” she continued.

“I would urge everyone to sign this petition to help ensure swifts and other species that have traditionally nested in the cavities of our buildings have a safe home to return to every year.”

To sign the petition go to: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/626737.