Welcome to our brand new blog series on garden birds! We start with robins, perhaps one of Britain’s favourite garden birds, especially at Christmas. In this post you will find everything you could possibly want to know about robins, as well as how to attract the angelic red breasted birds to your garden.
Why Are Robins Associated With Christmas?
Especially at this time of year, you may wonder to yourself, why are robins a symbol of Christmas? The answer may date back to Victorian times in Britain. During this time postal workers were nicknamed robins because of their red uniforms. Robins on Christmas cards came to represent the postal workers who had delivered them.
Others say the association dates back to the time of the bible. There is a fable that tells that when Jesus was born in the stable, there was a great fire that began to blaze out of control. A brown robin placed themselves between the fire and the manger and fluffed its feathers to protect baby Jesus, in turn setting his breast alight. The red breast of this robin was said to be passed down through generations of robins.
Are There Different Species of Robin?
There are ten different species of robin, but the European robin is the only one you will see in UK gardens. Juvenile European robins are brown in colour, and develop the robin’s signature red breast when they are around 6 months old.
Subspecies of the European robin migrate to the UK from scandinavia during the winter months to escape the harsh weather. These birds have a more dull red breast and are more grey in colour than your average UK robin. They are more likely to be seen in woodland areas than in your garden.
When is Robins Breeding Season?
Robin’s breeding season typically starts in march; however, if it has been a mild winter it can be as early as January. This is when you will start to hear bird song in the early morning – this is actually male birds ‘singing’ to attract a mate. Once partnered up, robins will stay together for the whole breeding season.
Nests can be found almost anywhere – in old plant pots, inside sheds, amongst bushes and even in teapots. The female will build the nest out of twigs, moss, leaves and grass, lining the nest with finer grass and feathers, ready for its first brood.
Broods will usually be 5-7 eggs in size, and robins have several broods, often overlapping, during the breeding season. Whilst the female lays on its eggs to incubate them, the male will go off to find food and bring it back to the female. Eggs hatch after about 13 days, and fledge (develop wings for flying) 14 days after that. During this time the male and female will share parenting responsibilities; baby robins are completely reliant on their parents for food, shelter and warmth.
What Do Robins Eat?
Robins favourite foods are insects, especially beetles and worms. They are omnivorous birds and insects provide a good source of protein to aid muscle growth and fat for energy. Robins use all their senses to hunt for worms, and have a great vision for this reason. They can see the tiniest end of a worm poking out the soil, and spot the slightest disturbance which may be a sign of a worm wriggling underneath.
You can help robins find their favourite treat by:
- keeping your lawn tripped and of even length
- watering your lawn early in the morning so worms are brought closer to the surface
- leaving piles of leaves intact for robins to forage through
An alternative is to leave dried mealworms in open feeders out for robins. These can be soaked in water to help hydrate robins when water is scarce due to hot weather or frost.
Robins also feed on fruit, seeds, suet, crushed peanuts and sunflower hearts. Robins are natural ground feeders, so leaving straights or a robin seed mix out in a ground feeding tray is best. For an extra treat, you can mix in some grated mild cheese. Be sure to remove the food in ground feeders if it rains, as this will cause the food to grow mould and bacteria.
You can also leave food out on bird tables. Covered bird tables will help keep food dry and protect feeding birds from any predators. Note that robins will only feed from hanging bird feeders if there is a perch, and even then they would prefer not to.
To find out more about the ins and outs of different bird food, take a look at our garden bird feeding guide.
Are Robins Endangered?
Robins are not endangered species, however they have a high mortality rate and just over half of young robins will survive the winter. Robins make up for this population loss by having multiple broods during breeding season.
The greatest threats to robins is during the colder seasons. The birds will use around 10% of their body weight during one cold and icy night. This is why it is especially important to help out during the winter by leaving out high energy and fresh water to help them survive.
How Do I Attract Robins To My Garden?
It is pretty straightforward to attract robins to your garden. If not present in your garden already, leave out some food suited to robins, as we have mentioned previously. In the new year, pop up an open front nest box to encourage robins to nest in your garden. Provide fresh and clean water in a bird bath. As robins also enjoy feeding on fruits and berries in the wintertime, you could also consider planting a crabapple or rowan tree in your garden.
We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into the most widely recognised garden bird in Britain. Keep and eye out for the next part of our garden bird series. The next bird we will take a look at is the blue tit.
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.