Robins are very well known in Britain, and have been voted our favourite bird. This is very unsurprising as we have such a love for these birds. They bring us such joy as they are associated with that magical time of year, Christmas. This has a very sweet story behind it, as it relates to post men delivering letters a Christmas. In the Victorian times a red jacket became part of a post man’s uniform. Shortly after the post men then became referred to as ‘Robins’. An artist designed a Christmas card with a Robin bird delivering the letter. This idea quickly court on and is why we often see our beloved Robin gracing our homes at Christmas.
The Robin is one of the few birds that we are able to see 365 days of the year; as they choose to stay in the UK over the winter period instead of migrating to a warmer climate. This often means people tend to report seeing Robins more in the winter months due to there being fewer other bird breads around. Enhancing their association with Winter / Christmas.
How to spot a Robin
Being a very iconic bird the Robin’s distinct look is very well known. Never the less let’s talk about what makes a Robin stand out. For a sing bird the Robin is reasonably average size, but small in comparison to other birds. In terms of a Robin’s appearance there is one part that stands out the most, and where it gets its name ‘Robin red breast’. This striking orangey red colour runs from the head and down the breast of the Robin. This isn’t just a fashion statement, but plays a very important role when it comes to a Robin and its territory (this is explained in more detail below). Surrounding the prominent red, like a frame, is a thin strip of light ash grey; and on the underneath belly is a patch of white. From the top of the head running all the way down the back and including the wings, is a mix of woody browns. These other areas of a Robin’s body are much more muted tones so as to make the breast stand out even more. So when trying to spot a Robin just look out for that red breast; as the rest of its body is pretty well camouflaged.
If you can’t see a Robin you may still be able to hear it. They have a very loud and aggressive song and are likely to be the first birds you hear in the morning and last at night. The slightest bit of light is likely to invoke the Robin to sing. However spotting a Robin whilst in song can be tricky as they like to hide away amongst leafy branches. So unfortunately it is highly unlikely for you to see them singing whilst at your bird table. But planting shrubs and trees in your garden will give them that desired place for a sing song.
A Robin’s behaviour and habitat.
Robins are extremely territorial birds. If you see a Robin at your feeder, then your garden is probably within its patch. That does mean you’re not likely to see groups of Robins in your garden at one time. Robins are lone rangers but will guard your garden with their lives. However in the summer is when you are most likely to see two robins in your garden. Mated pairs will share a territory during this time.
A Robin’s Territory can range dramatically in size. This depends on the density of birds currently populating the area, the abundance of nutrition and the quality of land. The smallest of changes can cause a Robin’s territory boundary to change, and can happen frequently. Robins will fight of territories which is actually the reason for their red plumage. This is contrary to what many people think about their breasts being used in courtship. Their fiery red breasts represent their fiery personality. When a Robin sees the flash of red feathers of another, it is like a red rag to a bull. The Robin sees this as a threat and will attack. But don’t let this put you off Robins as it can mean they are very inquisitive and not very shy like most birds. They will happily come down and see what is going on; making your chances of getting up close to a Robin much higher.
This can actually be a very important part to a Robin’s survival, particularly in the winter months. The harsh winter weather can have a really impact on a Robins. On one harshly cold night a Robin could use up to ten percent of its body weight. It is therefore imperative that the Robin manages to find a substantial source of food the following morning to recuperate what has been lost. If cold weather peruses for multiple days and the Robin is unable to find sufficient food this could lead to death.
So how can you help? During winter put out a good variety of food for the Robins. Meal worms are a favourite and suit balls. These are high in fat and protein which is exactly what they need to stay warm. Place these on a bird table for easy access or hand fat balls from hooks and branches. Throughout the rest of the year Robins will also happily eat seed mixes especially including sunflower hearts. Water is just as important as food to a bird. In very cold winters when water can freeze over it can become very hard for bird to find a water source, this can cause dehydration. Leaving out fresh water can be a life saver for any birds not just Robins. Also being able to use it to wash is important. Mud can get clogged around feet or in wings making it harder to fly. In winter months make sure that the water is fresh and not frozen. As small bird baths only allow for a small amount of water and can freeze over quickly. You can leave food out for Robins all year round but winter is when they need you most.
The other this you can do to attract Robins to your garden is by giving them the ideal nesting place. If your garden is part of a Robin’s territory then wouldn’t it be wonderful for it to choose your garden to nest in. Robins do not nest up high in trees, they prefer to be closer to ground level. They choose places such as hedges, hollows and crevices. They are also known to choose human items such shoes, pockets and any other things lying around in the garden. They aren’t fussy when it comes to what they nest in, but more where it is located. They like smaller spaces in hidden locations but with a wide opening. Specific Robin nesting boxes can be purchased but need to be places in an ideal location when them to be used. On trellising between lives and climbing plants in a great location. However during the nest making or egg laying process if the Robins are disturbed they can be known to abandon the nest.So make sure it is in an area of your garden that is less used so that the Robins can have some privacy.
Adopting any of these ideas and incorporating them into your garden will help the Robins, remembering that winter is when they need you the most. Then sit back and enjoy having these fiery little characters brightening you your garden with their stunning appearance and delightful song.