The Robin: A Symbol of Christmas

Bolton Green Umbrella | Tuesday 03 December 2019 | 0 Comments

The European robin (Erithacus rubecula) is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most iconic and well-loved birds. They often provide a much-needed splash of colour to our gardens over the grey, icy winter months, and that unmistakeable red breast (often set against a backdrop of crisp, white snow) has long been a proud and prominent feature on our Christmas cards.
With the festive season fast approaching, what better time to celebrate this charming little bird? Here are some interesting facts that you may or may not know about robins.

Can I leave food out for robins over winter?
Yes, you can. Robins are seen in our gardens less frequently over summer because foods such as earthworms, insects, berries and seeds are usually abundant in the forest at this time. However, during the scarce winter months, robins will readily visit our bird tables to supplement their diet. Leave seeds, suet and mealworms out and you’re sure to see them (and plenty of other birds) hopping about your garden. You can also put out peanuts, but these must be plain (i.e. unsalted, unflavoured) and it is better to crush them up rather than leave them whole, as this makes them easier for birds to handle and prevents them becoming a choking hazard.

Do robins like people?
Yes, but sadly, not in the way we’d like to think! Have you ever been out in the garden, digging a new flower bed or doing some weeding, only to look up and find that you’re being watched? Robins are described as ‘friendly’ or ‘fearless’ around people… but this has nothing to with any of us having a magnetic personality (sorry!). Robins eat invertebrates like worms and insects, all of which are brought out into the open when we turn over earth whilst gardening. Robins are actually keeping a close eye on the ground so that they can swoop in and grab a tasty snack! We’re just unwitting caterers that do the hard work for them!

Are robins territorial?
It may surprise you, but yes. Despite their friendly reputation, male robins are well-known to attack other male robins and sometimes other small birds that dare to trespass in their territory.  They have even been observed attacking their own reflections in window panes or car wing mirrors, believing them to be intruders. These territorial disputes can turn nasty, in some areas accounting for around 10% of adult robin deaths.

Do robins live long?
Yes, but not always. Because the first year of their life tends to be the most hazardous, robins have an average life expectancy of about 13 months. However, if they endure this initial period, their chances of survival increase dramatically, and they can live relatively long and successful lives. There are records of one robin reputed to have reached the ripe old age of 19 years!

Are robins endangered?
Thankfully not! European robins are listed as ‘of least concern’ on the IUCN Red List, meaning that the species is currently widespread and is not in need of any immediate intervention. However, harsh winters do account for the majority of seasonal population declines, so it is still important to monitor their numbers and help them as much as possible during cold weather.
If you would like to find out more about robins, visit the RSPB or The Wildlife Trusts online. Their wildlife guides can tell you more about the diet, habitat and distribution of these fascinating little birds, and how you can help them.



Photo credit: Tony Hisgett on

Video credit: ohlhous on


KMF, 2019


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