A festive Icon, the ‘Robin Red Breast’ (Erithacus rubecula)
This cute little bird from our Christmas cards is actually a highly territorial bird and will defend its territory aggressively against others.
The Robin’s will feed on seeds, fruits, insects, worms and invertebrates. and will visit garden bird tables to feed on tit-bits left there, but mealworms are, by far their favourite food.
Anyone who has a garden or an allotment will know that robins are happy to be around people they will often be found follow gardener around to take advantage of freshly dug-up worms turned over by the spade. Much like gulls following a plough.
Robins can be found throughout the UK, they inhabit farmland, and woodland as well as gardens and parks in towns and cities, and for this reason are the most recognizable bird in the UK.
Both male and female robins hold territories, as a pair in summer and as individuals in winter, both will take on any intruder and make it clear to all that this is their domain by singing loudly from a perch.
During courting, usually starting in March, but if the weather is favourable as early as January. During this time the female is permitted to enter the male’s territory. After matting the male will supply more than a third of his mate’s food throughout that period.
The female will build a cup-shaped nest low to the ground. She will hide her nest well in the nooks and crannies of tree roots, or in among shrubs and climbers, such as ivy. She will use any convenient discarded object in which to build, an old wellington boot, or plant pot.
Robins are rather sensitive around their nest and if disturbed during building and egg-laying will desert their nest if they believe it has been discovered. And for this reason, you must choose the location of the nest box well and not have the children visiting it every day to see if mum has laid her eggs, or chicks have hatched.
The female will lay four to six eggs, which she incubates for 13 days. When the chicks hatch, the female will start her house cleaning by removing all eggshells from the nest. Both parents look after the nestlings, which are dependent on them for food and warmth. The young birds will fledge 14 days after hatching but continue to be cared for, predominantly by the male, for a further three weeks. Robins will raise two broods a year, with nestlings as late as the end of July.
Robins are one of the most common of our native birds and can become quite brave around people and may approach you if you are quiet, and for these reasons are not hard to spot. Look out for their bright red breast or listening out for their song. Robins will sing throughout the year apart from midsummer when they are in moult. First to start singing and last, to stop in the evening the robin has quite a voice.
Robins are ground feeding birds so feeding trays are the best way to encourage them into your garden if they have not already claimed that territory. They will hover up scraps that have fallen from feeders but mealworms are a particular favourite of robins, along with sunflower hearts.
The biggest threat to robins is a sever winters, and possibly why their numbers have steadily increased from the mid-1970s. Global warming so milder winters. During the cold night, a robin will loose up to 10 per cent of its bodyweight simply keeping warm if it can not replenish this very quickly it will perish, so feeding trays in your garden is the best way to preserve the robin.
Here is my contribution
But how did the robin become the iconic bird at Christmas? In Victorian times postmen, as part of their uniform, wore a red waistcoat so were nicknamed ‘Robins’. And it was around this time that robins began to appear on Christmas cards, representing the postman who delivered the cards to your door.