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Posted: Saturday 5th December 2015 by Alice Hunter

Robin - Alice HunterRobin - Alice Hunter

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is Britain’s best loved bird. These enigmatic little feathered friends grace our gardens all year round, becoming quite fearless of us as we go about our daily business.

Robins can often be seen loitering on a spade handle or similar perch nearby while gardeners turn over soil, waiting for a tasty worm to be unearthed before hopping down to grab it. There have been many reports of bold individuals feeding from the hand and, with their festive orangey-red breast and endearing puffed-up appearance in cold weather, it is hardly surprising that they make a perfect subject for a Christmas card.

What is perhaps a little more startling, is that here in Britain we get an influx of Robins migrating south from Scandinavia and Russia; and that a minority of our British Robins (mostly females) make a similar journey onto the continent, some travelling as far as Spain to escape the colder winter weather. The male and female birds are very difficult to tell apart while juvenile birds don’t have any red in their feathers and instead have a mottled cream and brown breast until their first adult moult.

Adult Robins have a wingspan of around 20cm and weigh as little as 18-20g. They are primarily insect eaters but as with many species are opportunistic when food is scarcer in winter. On average, Robins live for just over a year. This figure is not a true representation of their lifespan though as they have a high mortality rate in their first year but once past this milestone may live a great deal longer. One individual was recorded to be 19 years old. To combat this adults lay two to three clutches of eggs per year, each containing five or six eggs.

While Robins may appear to us as adorable little birds with great character and a beautiful song, the male birds are particularly feisty and their creamy melody is in fact a declaration of their territorial space. This is fiercely fought over and opposing males will often fight to the death. In winter, male and female birds hold separate territories and both sing. Interestingly, with the introduction of extended street lighting, Robins can now often be heard singing at odd hours of the day when in street lit areas, and some have been seen to continue foraging beyond the hours of darkness when sufficient light is available from other sources.

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