The robin is consistently recognised as the UK’s Number 1 favourite and is synonymous with Christmas. Its attractive plumage and friendly inquisitive nature have endeared it to generations with its regular appearances in the gardens. Other species of our feathered friends are just as evident during the Christmas and the winter months, yet the robin is the one that resonates at this time of festive cheer.
Did you know that when the first Christmas cards started to be sent during the mid-18th century, they were delivered by postmen wearing bright red coats. These postmen were nicknamed “robins” or “redbreasts” with the popular early cards of the era displaying the robins who characterized them.
Another bygone folklore comes from the legend that the robin got his redbreast when pierced by a thorn from Christ’s crown as he hung from the cross. This reality is unlikely as Christmas cards only began to show religious images a great many centuries later, so it’s most likely that the first explanation is correct.
Sadly, in ignorance during the Victorian era robins were often killed to provide feathers for decorating Christmas cards. Fortunately these days we are much fonder of the robin and indeed our other feather friends! It was during the 1960s that Britain adopted the robin as its favourite bird, although it was never officially confirmed. In 2015 there was another survey to find Britain’s favourite national bird, with the robin once again taking 1st place. This orchestrated the organisers to request that the government officially recognise the robin as Britain’s national bird.
Despite its cheerful nature the robin is quite an aggressive and territorial species, with males sometimes fighting to the death to defend their adopted boundaries. Unlike many other birds robins remain on their own during autumn and winter and will sing to proclaim their territory. What resonates as a cheerful winter song to us, is actually a warning to ward of other robins coming too close!
Male and female robins are virtually identical in appearance with a brown crown, wings, upper parts and tail, a grey band along the sides of the breast, a white belly and of course the famous “red breast”, which is actually more of a deep orange colour. The younger birds have no red in their plumage and have spotty brown coloured feathers.
Robins breed from March to August and build a cup-shaped nest made from grass, leaves, or even hair. Unfortunately natural shelters these days are diminishing, so adding a nest box to your garden will help to support the next generations survive and thrive within your garden.
Robins are found in most gardens and to humans are one of the tamest wild birds, happily feeding alongside gardeners as they work. They will even take live food such as worms from the hand. In the harsher winter months they will become even more confident as they become vulnerable to food shortages caused by ice, snow and diminished natural food sources. You can support your local Robins by feeding them our Robin and Softbill seed blend, suets (e.g. fat balls) and dried mealworms