Alert Status: Green
Identifying Features: Red breast, brown body. Voted UK’s favourite bird; SBS National Robin Day: 21st December
Average Length: 13 - 14 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 Years
Average Wingspan: 20 - 22 cm
Beak type: Insects
Natural: Insects and worms, meal worms
How to feed: Ground feeders & bird tables
What to feed: Meal worms, peanut granules, suet treats & cheese
Nesting: Open fronted nest boxes
Where to see: Widespread across the UK. Hedges, gardens, woodland & parks
The robin is one of Britain’s best loved birds. We love to see these happy little visitors in our gardens so they are always a welcome sight. The robin has twice been declared Britain's national bird; the first time was in 1960 and the second in 2015.
This small bird is easy to spot with its bright red puffed up chest and friendly demeanour, robins are well known for accompanying gardeners perching on upturned fork handles or digging for worms from freshly turned soil. Every robin has a unique breast pattern so it is possible to recognise individuals if you are interested in learning if the same birds are visiting your garden. However, it is very difficult to see the difference. Juvenile robins have mottled brown plumage with pale underparts. The red breast appears approximately two months after the first moult.
Despite their cute and cheerful appearance, male robins can be quite aggressive and will sometimes fight to the death to defend their territory. They will attack their own reflection or even a bundle of red feathers if they mistake it for another bird. Unlike many other birds, robins remain on their own during autumn and winter and will sing to proclaim their territory. What sounds like a cheerful winter song to us is actually a warning to other robins who come too close.
Robins are one of the earliest birds to nest, with breeding starting in late March, although during mild winters robins have been known to breed as early as January.
They build their nests from sticks, grass, moss and dead leaves in areas with lots of shelter and easy access. Robins are famous for nesting in all sorts of odd locations including post boxes, flower pots, hanging baskets, old boots and even coat pockets. Male robins help gather materials and females do the majority of the building work.
Robins have a varied diet and will eat spiders, beetles and other small insects, worms, berries, soft fruits and seeds.
Robins will also eat most kitchen scraps such as cakes, biscuits and cheese as well as sunflower hearts and mealworms from bird tables and feeders.
Both males and females hold their own separate feeding territories in the winter and they will defend it vigorously. By around Christmas, many will have paired up. Initially, they do not spend much time together. They will merely tolerate one another but will remain together until the following autumn moult.
When Christmas comes around you can guarantee that you will receive many cards with robins on. When the first Christmas cards were sent in the mid-19th century they were delivered by postmen wearing bright red coats. These postmen were nicknamed “robins” or “redbreasts” and the most popular early cards depicted robins who represented them. In Victorian times robins were even killed to provide feathers for decorating Christmas cards.
As legend has it, the robin got his red breast after burning himself on a fire he fanned to keep the baby Jesus warm. Another popular bible tale is that when Jesus was on the road to Calvary it is said that a robin plucked a thorn from Christ’s temple and a drop of Jesus’ blood fell on the robin’s chest, turning it red.