Of all the birds in the UK, robins are probably the most easily recognised. Standing out on feeders and branches due to their red chest, the robin is a common sight in British gardens. But how much do we really know about this bright little bird?
Britain’s National Bird
The robin is Britain’s National Bird. More than 200,000 people voted for the robin. In part, this may be because robins do not migrate from the UK. The robin is a year round bird, despite its association with Winter and, especially, Christmas.
Despite their sweet appearance, robins are fiercely territorial and will sometimes fight to the death to defend or increase their territory. Both males and females hold territory through winter, singing the same song to declare their ownership of space.
This is largely linked with territory – males sing their territorial song as they perch on the highest branches, thereby claiming dominance. Juvenile robins do not develop the redbreast until after their first moult, which helps increase their chances of surviving until adulthood.
Male and female robins have identical plumage, which can lead to some confusion at mating time! When you see robins singing to each other in the spring, they are probably clarifying their gender. Interestingly, however, all robins have a unique chest pattern, a little like a fingerprint. It may be a challenge, but this means that all robins can be individually identified.
Friendly and bold
The British robin is known for its bold nature, especially among gardeners and a robin perched on a fence waiting to seize worms from a freshly-dug veg patch is a common sight. Some robins will even take food from our hands!
Robins enjoy a varied diet, including worms, fruit, nuts and insects.
Their habit of singing at night-time (even under street lights!) has led to the robin being mistaken for the nightingale. Robins are the first to begin the infamous dawn chorus and usually the last to stop singing.
The robin is often shown on Christmas cards, despite being a year round bird. However, the robin has also been depicted in mythology as a harbinger of doom which is why some folk who live in the countryside do not welcome the sight of a robin bearing seasons greetings!