A beloved garden companion, the Robin redbreast is the UK’s unofficial national bird. These cheerful birds can be seen and heard throughout the year as they forage and nest alongside us.
Robins are one of the UK's most distinctive birds. Continue reading to learn more about their size and appearance.
The Robin is an undeniably attractive little garden bird with an unmistakable orange breast and face. This bright ‘red breast’ is bordered by grey plumage on either side, which gives way to brown upper parts that cover the crown, back, wings, and tail. The underparts from the belly to the vent are a lighter greyish shade.
Close up of a European Robin
Male and female Robins are practically impossible to distinguish on looks alone. Both have big black eyes, fine grey bills and pinkish legs.
Our guide details some of the not-so-obvious differences that you can look out for when telling male and female robins apart.
Fortunately, juvenile Robins are quite distinct. These young birds are mottled in light and dark brown and do not develop their tell-tale red breast until they are a few months old.
Robins are small birds with big personalities. Most adults have the following body measurements:
Robins measure approximately 14 centimetres from the tip of their bill to the end of their tail.
Robins usually weigh between 14 and 25 grams. Males are often the larger sex, although females may outweigh them when carrying eggs.
The Robin’s wingspan is 20 to 22 centimetres.
Both male and female robins have red breasts all year round. Juvenile robins are the only ones that do not have a red breast and instead are a spotted brown colour.
Male robins use their red breasts during the breeding season as a way of settling territorial disputes, which means the colour actually plays quite a significant role for the birds, other than just being a delightful sight on a winters day.
Close up of a perched Robin
Robins delight us with their song throughout the year, although they turn down the volume somewhat in the autumn and winter.
Both male and female Robins sing, although males do almost all of the singing in spring. Their song is varied and melodious, including many warbled and whistled notes.
Robins sing from before sunrise and end soon after sunset, although some continue to sing into the night in well-lit urban areas. These birds also produce a range of shorter ‘tic’ and ‘seep’ notes in alarm, during aggressive encounters, and to maintain contact with their partners.
Frank Lambert, XC414220. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/414220.
The robin was declared Britain’s national bird on December 15th, 1960.
Have you ever watched a Robin hop about in a park or garden, moving from perch to perch or methodically searching the ground for a meal? These active birds are omnivorous, although live prey is their most important food source.
Continue reading to learn more about the European Robin diet.
Primarily invertebrate eaters, Robins forage for prey like beetles, woodlice, spiders, and earthworms. In the winter, when insects are relatively scarce, Robins will supplement their diet with carbohydrate-rich seeds and fruit.
Bird lovers can attract Robins by providing the following foods in moderation:
Check out our comprehensive guide on what robins eat.
Baby Robins rely on a steady supply of food from the time they hatch until a few weeks after they leave the nest. Both parents provide insects, fruits and seeds to their growing chicks.
Robin with a beak full of Mayflies, ready to feed the hungry chicks in the nest
Despite their common name, European Robins occur on three continents. There are several known sub-species, each occupying different parts of their range. Keep reading to learn more about their habitats and distribution in the UK and abroad.
Robins thrive in many habitats, from suburban gardens and city parks to farmland, woodlands and forest edges.
Robins occur virtually throughout the United Kingdom and can be seen at any time of the year. They are also resident in much of Western and Southern Europe and even along the north coast of Africa from Tunisia to Morocco.
Robins are also widespread visitors to northern Europe and Western Asia, where they breed each summer. These migratory populations overwinter further south in North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Central Asia.
Close up of a Robin in flight
Robins live in both natural and heavily human-modified environments. They often associate with humans since they have learned that we enjoy their presence and often encourage them with tasty treats like mealworms and suet.
Robins spend much time foraging on the ground or in low vegetation. However, they will fly to higher, more prominent perches where their song carries better, and their red breast is more clearly visible to potential intruders.
Check out this complete guide on the distribution and habitat of European Robins.
Robins are common to abundant in the United Kingdom. In fact, they are considered the second most common bird in the UK, with estimates of four to seven million breeding pairs.
Robins visit an estimated 85% of UK gardens, so you probably don’t need to travel far to get a good sighting. The species is widespread throughout the United Kingdom except for parts of Northern Scotland.
Robin Redbreasts are extremely fond of mealworms
Robins spend a lot of their time on the ground foraging. They tend to perch motionless then make a sudden movement, stop still and then repeat. They hop rapidly along the ground with feet together, and will also curtesy and cock tail.
Along with their red breast, they can be distinguished by their narrow yellow wing bar.
Robins each have a unique breast pattern that can be used to identify different individuals.
Robin taking a drink of water
Robins face many threats in both urban and rural landscapes. These birds have a short average lifespan, but their adaptable nature and high breeding success keep their numbers healthy in the United Kingdom.
Robins may survive for just 13 months on average, but birds that overcome the hurdle of fledging and growing to maturity have a much greater chance of a long life. The maximum recorded age for the species is an impressive 19 years and four months.
Domestic cats are the greatest enemy of Robins in urban and suburban areas, and wild predators like foxes and Sparrowhawks will not pass up the opportunity to hunt these common birds.
The 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act protects Robins in the United Kingdom. This act protects adult Robins, their eggs, and their nests. Therefore, it is an offence to harm, capture or kill them.
Robins have a green conservation status in the United Kingdom and are not considered endangered. Their global conservation status is ‘Least Concern’.
Robin standing on a branch next to a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Robins produce one to three broods each year. These birds often nest in gardens where they may find their own sheltered spot or use purpose-built nest boxes.
Read on to learn more, or click here for our comprehensive guide on Robin nesting habits.
Robins usually build their nests low in shrubs and other vegetation. They will also nest in tree cavities, between roots, in stone walls, and sometimes even on the ground among grass tussocks.
However, these birds are notorious for choosing odd locations around our homes, including sheds, garden furniture, and even in cars.
Robins lay four to seven whitish eggs, each speckled in reddish brown. Each egg measures approximately 21 millimetres long and 15 millimetres wide.
Robins form new pairs each breeding season. Although monogamous, they do not mate for life.
Close up of a Robins nest with unhatched eggs inside
European Robins are quirky, lively little birds. Interesting behaviours, vibrant colours, and a sweet voice make them lovely birds to watch, even from the comfort of your own home. Males remain in the same territory throughout the year and are joined by their partners during the breeding season.
Despite their darling reputation, Robins are surprisingly aggressive little birds. Fights between Robins can be vicious and sometimes even end in death.
However, aggressive territorial behaviour is the norm among many bird species. Their aggression is usually directed only at other Robins who would dare to enter their territory, so, of course, bird watchers have nothing to fear from these endearing garden companions.
Robins can become rather tame, and their charming presence alongside us when out in the garden is appreciated by many.
Robins usually roost within dense vegetation such as conifers and hedges. Despite being strongly territorial, these feisty birds may leave their daytime territories to roost communally in the winter.
Familiar sight of a Robin in a garden, perched on a watering can
In the United Kingdom, birdwatchers can enjoy Robin sightings throughout the year. However, these birds are known to undertake lengthy movements in some areas. Read on or check out our comprehensive guide on Robin migration habits in the United Kingdom.
Robins are migratory across most of their range, although the UK population is largely resident. A small proportion of the population (generally females) migrate south for the winter, some moving as far as Spain.
Robin taking a bath in a bird bath
Collective nouns that can be used to describe a group of Robins:
Robins are not known to communicate with humans. These familiar birds use their voices to communicate with other members of their species.
Robins, like many other garden birds, can become very tame and confiding. The easiest way to their heart is through their stomach, and regular feeding with tasty morsels like mealworms will keep your local pair of Robins returning to your garden.
European Robin, Robin Redbreast
Family:Old World flycatchers and chats
20cm to 22cm
14g to 25g
Previously classed as a member of the family Turdidae (predominantly thrushes) the red-flanked bluetail is now generally acknowledged to belong to the family of old world flycatchers, Muscicapidae. This monotypic passerine resembles the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in size, shape and behaviour.
The Spotted Flycatcher is a rather plain bird, more distinctive in its behaviours than it looks. These marvellous migrants remain widespread in the UK, although nowhere near as common as they once were.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.