Robins at Christmas

As we all know Robins are a very common sight around Christmas time. While we may think all they like to do at this time is pose for Christmas cards; they are actually working hard to survive the harsh winter weather. But that’s not all they are getting up too, the rest is quite surprising.

Unusual but quite amazingly enough, you can find some Robins starting to pair up during winter, or at least, the clever ones are. During winter, food stocks are very low, the weather harsh and spring seems a life time away, some Robins quite cunningly take some time to court a potential mate. For many other bird species, to court at this time, would seem quite obscure.

Prior to this, for some months, the Robins will have been in a state of such called Red Alert. During the autumn and early winter they have been in territorial mode, aggressively evicting each other from their respective territories, with no signs of mating and keeping well apart. With all Robins both male and female violently singing insults throughout their territories. No one wants to concede any ground.

But sometime in mid-December, just before Christmas, some male Robins in a spring-like mood takes it upon themselves to suddenly change their tune. Throughout autumn the male’s song has been slightly deep, mellow and moody. All this being sung from a low perch, and almost out of sight.

But now, almost like it is spring the eager male Robins abruptly changes key. The song is now much more welcoming, often, and with sharper, more cheerful-sounding phrases. Placing themselves more centrally within there territories; the males Robins perch up high to deliver there song far and wide.

Not quite yet in the matting spirit, the male Robin won’t necessarily yet recognise or even welcome in an approaching female.

It is now the time of the female to make the advance, as in these pairings they are the one that will take the initiative. When a female Robin hears that welcoming song, it is up to her to then approach the male and win him over. But when entering the male’s territory at first it is only brief as the male will almost definitely instantly shun the female. However, undeterred the female continues this game of chase until the male Robin realises the mating potential.

Once the male accepts the female, the intimate courting can begin. Now face to face, the male sings loudly. This then becomes then delightful display known as the ‘song and following ceremony’. This starts from a distance but as the male sing, each time the female comes a little closer. Then in pour desire the female chases the male continually around his territory. Almost in a flirty sort of bird kiss chase. But this all comes to an end when the female, such a tease she is, abruptly exits the male’s territory into the area of another. The male she has been courting will follow to continue the fun and games. But the new male has other idea and will attempt to evict this jubilant male.

The female will happily do this merry dance, with multiple males, spanning many territories, throughout the month. Eventually she will come to a decision on which of how many potential partners will be the one. You will able to tell two recently paired Robins in at Christmas by their joint foraging in your garden. If you were thinking this is them settled now until spring you would be wrong; this is just a short lived midwinter romance.They are still a couple although neither showing much affection to the other. The male will revert back to his more sombre song, and the female, if she has one, will return to her territory. However on some occasions when territories are in close proximity they are combined.They go about their own business for the next few months, rarely being seen together. That is until the breeding season where they will come back together to nest; as it is uncommon for either in the pair to change partner in the interim.

This just goes to show that unlike other birds that hide away in the winter; Robins spend time having fun amongst each other and, like us, loving Christmas.