Robin: Bird of the Week

Cute-looking, but territorial and vicious, the robin is one of the UK's most popular garden birds.

By Ness Amaral-Rogers
Published 28 Dec 2018, 09:55 GMT
A robin, 'Erithacus rubecula', perched in garden trellis. The birds follow gardeners around hoping for worms ...
A robin, 'Erithacus rubecula', perched in garden trellis. The birds follow gardeners around hoping for worms to be dug up.
Photograph by Ray Kennedy

Robins are with us all year round but many people only begin to really notice them around Christmas time. The robin’s association with the festive season is believed to have begun when Victorian postmen adorned in scarlet jackets were delivering Christmas cards, and the similarly-coloured robin redbreast soon became linked to this tradition.

Victorian postmen, dressed in scarlet jackets, delivering Christmas cards, are thought to have started the robin's association with the festive period.
Photograph by Ben Andrew

They are also more obvious during the winter; birds sing either to attract a mate, or defend a territory. Robins are one of the few who defend their territory throughout the winter, and so both sexes continue to sing when the majority of other birds have stopped, even late into the night.

In 1960, and again in 2015, they were crowned the UK's national bird but don’t be fooled by their charming exterior. Their aggressively territorial tendencies can make them quite vicious and quick to drive away intruders. Males may hold the same area throughout their lives, and will even attack a bundle of red feathers or their own reflection if they mistake it for another robin.

Providing fruity suet balls in a bird feeder is a good way to attract robins to gardens.
Photograph by Nigel Blake

These diminutive birds are known for following gardeners around as the soil is being turned over, waiting for earthworms or other small invertebrates to be revealed. This behaviour began in European forests where large animals like wild boar were rooting around in the mud and leaf litter and the robin learned to follow to scavenge for unearthed food in their trail.

To learn how to help birds in your garden visit the RSPB’s website.

Male robins may hold the same territory throughout their lives, singing (and fighting) to defend their patch.
Photograph by Ben Andrew
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