Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
|Size||Length: 12.5 - 14 cm (2)|
- The robin is one of the few birds which can be heard singing during the winter.
- A feisty and territorial species, male robins will aggressively drive intruders away and often hold the same territory throughout their life.
- The robin is known for nesting in unusual places, including old teapots, jacket pockets, and on shelves in buildings.
- In the UK robins are closely associated with Christmas, possibly because the first postmen wore bright red waistcoats, and were popularly known as 'Robins'.
The robin is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Widespread and common species (3). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Green List (low conservation concern) (4).
The robin (Erithacus rubecula) is undoubtedly one of Britain's most dearly loved birds (3). It is instantly recognisable due to the rusty-red breast; indeed, 'Robin redbreast' and simply 'redbreast' are well-known alternative names (5). The sexes are very similar, but juveniles lack the red breast and are mottled with browns and buffs (6). The robin is one of the few birds to sing throughout the winter; its melodious, liquid song is a further feature that has endeared this species to the public (6). A short 'tick' call is also produced (2).
Widely distributed throughout Britain, with the exception of islands and the higher hills of Scotland (6). The robin also occurs throughout much of Europe, reaching as far east as central Siberia, as well as parts of North Africa and Turkey (6).
Occurs in a range of habitats, but typically requires the presence of both dense vegetation and open areas. The robin breeds in woodlands, gardens, forest edges, parks (2), and even city centres (6).
Although the robin has been recorded feeding on a very wide range of food, the majority of the diet consists of invertebrates, soft fruit and seeds (3). As most of the food is taken from the ground, snowfall can cause huge numbers of deaths (3).
Robins are very territorial birds throughout the year; in winter both males and females defend their own territory, and males often hold the same territory throughout their lives (3). Territories are defended by means of singing from a prominent perch, and by aggressively driving intruders away (6). During the breeding season, a female is allowed into a male's territory; she makes the cup-shaped nest of dead leaves and moss with a lining of hair (6). The nest is often located in unusual places, such as in old teapots, jacket pockets, and on shelves in buildings, as well as in more 'natural' locations such as amongst ivy (6). After the end of March, between four and six white or faintly bluish, speckled eggs are laid (7), and incubated by the female for up to 15 days. After hatching the young are fed by the female on items of food brought to the nest by the male (6). Two broods are usually produced each year, although a pair may occasionally go on to rear a third (6).
Not surprisingly, there is much folklore surrounding the robin, and it has featured in many poems and fables. Furthermore, in Britain the robin is closely associated with Christmas. The first postmen wore bright red waistcoats, and were popularly known as 'Robins'; this may explain not only why robins are often featured on Christmas cards, but also why they are frequently depicted holding a letter in the beak, delivering the mail (5).
The robin is not currently threatened.
Conservation action has not been targeted at the robin.
For more information on the robin:
BBC Wildlife Finder:
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For more information on the robin and other bird species:
Information authenticated by the RSPB:
- Incubate: to keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
- Territorial: describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
- Territory: an area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
- Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
- Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
RSPB (2003) The population status of birds in the UK:
- Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air; the names, lore and literature of British birds. Book Club Associates, London.
- Gooder, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
- RSPB (2002) Pers. comm.