Britain’s favourite bird, and postcard pinup, the robin is a friendly visitor to the garden where it delights with its beautiful voice.
European Robin, Robin Redbreast
The robin is a small, round chat with a large head and large eyes. It is famously distinguished by its striking orange-red bib that covers its breast and face, this is separated from brown upperparts by a band of blue-grey. Both sexes are the same colour. Bill is dark brown, as are its long legs. When hopping along it can turn a rather slim profile, but can ruffle its feathers and thus appear more portly. Juveniles have a spotted brown head and body, their underparts are slightly paler than adults, and they lack the red bib.
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.
Both sexes sing a series of mellow whistles and warbles. Tempo and volume vary and no two verses are the same. Robins use their song to defend their territories from one another during autumn and winter. In autumn their songs can turn more melancholy. The call is a sharp, hard “tic”. Alarm is a thin “tsiih.” Robins sing all year round.
Frank Lambert, XC414220. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/414220.
The robin was declared Britain’s national bird on December 15th, 1960.
Robins feed on insects, especially beetles, snails and worms. In the autumn and winter they will eat fruit and seeds. Known as the gardener’s friend, they will be busy around the shovel or fork seeing what is turned up.
Generally, to see a robin you need look no further than the garden. They tend to be wary, but are by no means shy and can even become very tame. In the north of their range, robins prefer coniferous, mainly spruce, while further south they prefer broad-leaved woodland, parks and gardens.
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.
In mating season, the female will chase the male until she is accepted, after which he rewards her with food for her efforts. Robins nest in hollow stumps, banks, crevices, in natural or artificial holes. The nest will use a base of dead leaves or cup of moss. Lays 4-6 eggs that are white with a rusty appearance.
The nest and eggs of a Robin
Robins live on average for 2 years, this is due to higher mortality during the first year of a robins life. After this time, their chances of survival increase dramatically meaning they can be around for quite a long time. The oldest recorded sits at 19 years old.
In the UK, robins are largely sedentary, but some will travel to continental Europe in winter and can reach as far south as Spain. Meanwhile, visitors will arrive in Britain from northern Europe in order to escape the harsh winters there.
Robins are protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and their conservation status is currently green. However, their most common cause of death is being killed by cats.
Collective nouns that can be used to describe a group of Robins:
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.