The Twitchers by M. G. Leonard is a mystery adventure series celebrating friendship, bravery and the incredible world of birds.

Protecting the environment and our wildlife lies at the heart of the books, with the mysteries inspired by real-life nature stories of egg theft, illegal bird trafficking and the protection of endangered species.

They are perfect reading for climate-conscious kids, and each can be read as a part of the series or as a standalone adventure.

With the publication of the final chapter to The Twitchers series just published, we grabbed the chance to speak to the author about her passion for our environment, and her feisty ornithologist detectives.

Q. In Clutch, there’s a great scene in which Twitch and Jack talk about Jack’s Horror Lifer List (“birds he thought were deadly cool”). Where did this idea come from? Have you seen any of the species on Jack’s list of “birds that could star in horror movies”?

A. This idea came from the fact that people are often afraid of birds, and some of them do look like they come straight out of horror movies, which is something that Jack would find cool. The Marabou stork is one such unfortunate bird. My sister saw one when she was working in Africa and was terrified of it. I’ve never seen a Dracula parrot, but it is on my lifer list.

Q. What drew you to write about the theft of peregrine falcon eggs in Clutch? Is there a notable problem with the theft of peregrine falcon eggs? How prevalent is egg theft in the UK today?

A. As recently as April 2023, a man was caught after abseiling down a cliff and stealing Peregrine falcon eggs. He was caught on a hidden camera and went to prison. You can read about it here. This happened the month that Clutch was published. It is a huge problem because the birds are an endangered species, and as I explain in the opening of the book, they only lay once a year. This is not something I’ve made up. This is a crime that threatens our rare birds and I wanted to highlight it, because not a lot of people are even aware that taking eggs from a bird’s nest is a crime.

Q. Where did the idea of the nesting spoonbills in Clutch come from? Was that inspired by real-life?

A. Pretty much everything in my books is inspired by something in the real world. Spoonbills stopped nesting in the UK for hundreds of years, but because of climate change, they’ve started coming back. I read this article about Spoonbills nesting in Yorkshire and because that’s the place that inspired Briddvale, I thought they were the perfect birds for The Twitchers to be desperate to protect. I also adored the fact that baby spoonbills are often called teaspoons.

Q. Moving to Feather, the role of the raven was inspired! Could you share some fascinating facts about ravens, such as a few examples of their intelligence and the amazing myths they’ve given rise to?

A. Ravens are clever birds. They are able to mimic sounds and human speech. They have the puzzle-solving skills of an eight-year-old human. It uses its beak as a tool. You don’t want to upset a raven because they can recognise and remember your face and if you run into the bird years after upsetting it, it will take its revenge. Humans have struck up friendships with ravens and famously, Charles Dickens had a pet raven called Grip, who would sit on his shoulder. I think, because the birds are so clever, they’ve become part of myths. Ravens are often thought to be bad luck, possibly because it is a bird of prey and so will kill small mammals and other birds. They are associated with the god Apollo, and the god Odin, and there is of course the myth that if the ravens ever leave the Tower of London, the kingdom of England will fall.

Q. What inspired the idea for Feather, the fourth Twitchers book?

A. Back in 2009 there was a real robbery at the Tring Natural History Museum. The thief stole hundreds of birds of paradise bird skins. The theft wasn’t discovered for months and it was assumed the trail had gone cold, however an American journalist called Kirk Wallace heard about the theft and became obsessed with solving the case. He wrote a book called The Feather Thief. I read this book and was flabbergasted by the true crime. My museum heist is different from the real one, but the crime is the same. I often take inspiration from real life stories for my books and this is no exception.

Q. What do you see each of the Twitchers going on to do when they grow up?

A. It’s hard to guess, but Twitch will probably work with the RSPB. Jack will travel. Ava will become a human rights lawyer. Tippi will be an artist. Tara will become a landscape architect. Terry will do loads of different jobs, never quite settling down, and Ozuru will be a writer. 

Q. Other than a writer (of course!) what would be your dream job?

A. I have done so many interesting jobs, but writing is the job that suits me the best. If I had to take another job, I think I’d want to work in film, possibly as a director.

Q. Do you have any tips for budding authors?

A. Read as much as you can, noting down what you like and why. Keep this information in a reading journal, so that when you are creating your own story you know what you like in a story.

When you start writing, don’t read back over what you’ve done. Keep going until you get to the end, then put it away for a few weeks. Then read it with fresh eyes and ask which bits you think you could do better, and which bits can be cut. Then rewrite it.

Give it to people you trust to read and listen to the bits they say they liked and the bits they didn’t like, but don’t listen to their suggestions for what you might do instead.

Q. What is the book you wish you had written?

A. My Family and Other Animals is one of my favourite books, and I would’ve loved to have written it because it would mean I would’ve been part of the Durrell family and lived on the island of Cypress sharing in their adventures.

Q. What are you currently reading and which books are in your to-read pile?

A. I’m currently reading Tarka the Otter, which is far more brutal than I remember it being. It is gripping. The writing is muscular and factual about nature, truth and claw. I just read a passage about a badger eating a hedgehog and was stunned. I’m looking forward to reading The Secret of the Moonshard by Struan Murray because he’s got such a wonderful imagination and Ember Spark by Abi Elphinstone who knows how to write a fabulous adventure.

Q. How did you get involved with Authors4Oceans? Can you tell us a bit about its mission.

Authors4Oceans was the brainchild of Lauren St John, who invited other authors who felt as passionately as her about the plight of our oceans to unite and create initiatives to highlight the role the publishing industry can play to make a difference. I was one of the first to jump aboard and took an active role in our work. Our mission is to use our voices to put pressure on the big companies we work with to adopt greener policies and use our storytelling skills to inspire change. I’m proud to be a part of it.

What does LoveReading4Kids mean to you?

LoveReading4Kids provides an essential service to readers. Reading for pleasure is so important for everyone but especially for children. Newspapers have very little coverage of children’s books and it is hard for parents to know what is available that their children might enjoy, because there are very few reviews of new books. LoveReading4Kids is brilliant because it helps make the connection between all the fantastic books out there and young readers looking for their perfect book. LoveReading4Kids are also doing important work to get books into schools that have had their budgets slashed and their libraries closed.

You can find the books in the M.G. Leonard's Twitchers series below,  and on each book page is a fantastic selection of videos and activities to encourage young birdspotters.

Plus we have a full set of the series up for grabs in our competition giveaway - enter here!