Do Robins Mate For Life? (In the UK)

Robins (Erithacus rubecula) are one of the most distinguishable and well-loved birds present in gardens across the UK. They are highly territorial birds, and they become even more so during the breeding season.

Even during the breeding season, it's relatively uncommon to spot more than one Robin together; this is because they both play vital roles in raising the young. So what happens after raising the chicks? Do robins mate for life?

Robins are monogamous during the breeding season but generally do not mate for life. However, if successful broods are raised, robins will occasionally return to the same territory the next year to raise subsequent broods.

Robins can raise up to three, and even in some circumstances, four broods each year, meaning that although breeding pairs don't generally mate for life, they still spend a significant portion of the year together - in some cases, this can be more than half of the year (January to late July).

Robins are monogamous during the breeding season, but generally don't mate for life

Robins are monogamous during the breeding season, but generally don't mate for life

After the breeding season is over and chicks have fledged the nest, breeding pairs usually go their separate ways and establish their own territories for the remainder of the year.

On occasion, male and female robins can end up returning to the same territory to raise another brood together; this is mainly the case after a successful nesting season.

It's unknown if this is a choice or coincidence of the selection method for a male, as it could also be down to overlapping territories.

Keep on reading to find out how robins attract a mate, along with some other frequently asked questions about their breeding behaviours.

European Robins are usually solitary birds, spotted on their own

European Robins are usually solitary birds, spotted on their own

How do Robins attract a mate?

Male robins sing loudly in order to try and attract a female into their established territory. Singling loudly not only attracts the female, but also shows their good health and vitality. The vibrant colours on a robin's breast help him stand out, whilst also showing off his condition.

It's down to the female Robin to go into the established territory of a male robin in order to try and form a breeding pair. This process can take a few days, as male robins aren't too welcoming to other robins in their territories.

This can also cause some commotion, as male robins are usually highly protective of their territories once they have established them, meaning it takes a few days for him to warm to her before finally accepting her into his territory.

Not only is the song of Robins a wonderful sound to fill the garden, it also serves many different purposes

Not only is the song of Robins a wonderful sound to fill the garden, it also serves many different purposes

Courtship displays and pair formations usually begin in January in the UK. However, whenever it is a harsh winter, this can be slightly later on in the year.

As robins are generally resident and don't usually travel too far from their territories, pair formation is generally with a nearby male. There can be a strong tendency for females to breed with males where she previously lived in a familiar area.

If both of their territories overlap, this can have the added benefit of increasing the overall size of their territory, allowing more room for foraging and nest site selection.

Male robins will continue to sing to proclaim ownership of the garden or area he is raising his young in.

Courtship feeding

European Robins partake in something called 'Courtship Feeding.' Female Robins demand food from males by a monosyllabic call accompanied by the lowering of her wings and shaking.

This behaviour is highly similar to that of a fledgling robin while begging for food from one of its parents.

During incubation, studies have shown a correlation between more 'contact' calls and larger clutch sizes.

Courtship feeding, with the male feeding the female. In robins, courtship feeding starts a couple of days before she lays the first egg, and continues through the incubation

Courtship feeding, with the male feeding the female. In robins, courtship feeding starts a couple of days before she lays the first egg, and continues through the incubation

How many times a year do Robins breed?

Generally speaking, Robins lay two broods a year. Three broods isn't that uncommon, and in some circumstances, four.

When three or four broods are raised, this can result in a remarkably long breeding season, stretching all the way through into late July in some circumstances.

In these circumstances, the chick survival rate decreases dramatically, with around only a 57% success rate in fledgling birds.

Once the chicks have fledged, it's down to the male Robin to take care of the fledglings, to allow the female to try and prepare herself to try and produce another brood.

Robin gathering nesting material

Robin gathering nesting material

What happens when a Robin loses its mate?

European Robins are pretty quick to replace their mate in the unfortunate event of their partner dying. The surviving bird will attempt to re-pair as soon as possible to raise another brood.

Both males and females play essential roles and are vital to the survival rate of their chicks. For example, males provide a significant amount of food to both females and chicks during the nesting process.

Robins will try and replace their mate as soon as possible after losing them

Robins will try and replace their mate as soon as possible after losing them

Do Robins stay together as a family?

After the breeding season has finished, Robins go their separate ways. This is after the fledglings have fully grown up and are capable of looking after themselves.

For the rest of the year, robins usually live happily on their own and generally don't tolerate any other nearby robins - male or female. They tend not to bother so much about different bird species, however.

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