Britain’s favourite bird has long been associated with Christmas, but do you know how the mighty robin became iconic at this time of year?
The robin’s association with the festive season is believed to have begun when scarlet-jacketed postmen started delivering Christmas cards during the mid-19th century. The robin redbreast soon became linked to this tradition, adorning many a festive greeting card, and in 1960 they were crowned the UK’s national bird.
The robin is one of the few birds to sing throughout the winter months, which is why people only begin to really notice them around this time of year. A medium-sized garden bird, the robin is a member of the thrush family, which also includes the blackbird and nightingale, with male and female birds both sporting the famous redbreast.
During the breeding season (March to May) robins build cup-shaped nests – mostly made of moss, leaves and stalks – and are famous for choosing a variety of places to build a nest in such as old kettles, watering cans and shelves in sheds. Nest sites have also been recorded in plant pots, a pigeonhole in a desk, and even in the engine of a Second World War plane!
Robins are solitary birds, sometimes fighting with each other over territory, but can become very tame and have been known to take feed out of the palm of a person’s hand. Males may hold the same territory throughout their lives and will even attack a bundle of red feathers or their own reflection if they mistake it for another individual.
The robin is a common species in the UK, but harsh and cold winters can reduce their numbers, especially if we have prolonged freezing weather.
If you’d like to attract robins to your garden this winter, the RSPB suggests a number of ways to encourage the nation’s favourite bird;
- Simply putting out a birdbath or a dish of water is great, although do make sure this is prevented from freezing over during the colder months.
- The robin will happily eat a range of seeds, suet or fat balls, and are particularly fond of mealworms which are packed with moisture and protein. You can also provide fruit or morsels of fat, such as crumbled cheese or buggy nibbles.
- Piles of logs and leaf litter will house plenty of spiders and other small animals that robins can find during the winter. Ivy is also great, providing shelter and invertebrate food during winter and spaces for robins to nest in spring.
- An open fronted nest box placed on a wall, shed or tree will give them somewhere to nest in and raise their young during the spring and summer, and potentially somewhere to roost in during the winter. Make sure you place the box out of the wind and rain – a north-easterly direction is best – and allow for a clear flight path, away from predators. Robins will also nest in hedges so planting with wildlife in mind is also extremely beneficial.
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The brushwood finish of this robin nester allows it to be hidden easily amongst the foliage and is tailored to the nesting habits of the species.
Measures 12.5 x 24.99 x 13.97 cm
Cast Iron Hanging Bird Feeder
This vintage style decorative cast iron love heart bird feeder/bath can hang anywhere using the hook attached. An ideal gift for any bird lover!
Measures 25 x 19.6 x 10.2 cm. Frost & weather resistant.
Robin Food 500G
I Love Robins seed mix is an ultra-rich blend that’s tailor-made for Britain’s favourite bird.
The honey-rich specialist formulation for robins, song thrushes & blackbirds delivers extra protein and energy and is perfect for all-year feeding.
Packed with fruit, shrimps, insects and honey.
The RSPB’s super suet fat balls; ideal for feeding from a suet ball feeder or putting out loose, whole or crumbled onto bird tables. Box contains 50 x 90g suet balls.
Buying RSPB products also helps to fund vital conservation work, too!
Main image: Robin perched on a branch, Bedfordshire (RSPB images)