Christmas is not going to be the same this year, but some things remain the same, like our constant friend throughout the seasons, the nation's favourite bird, the iconic Robin. At around 14cm in length and weighing just 18g, these birds are brown with white bellies and red breasts, the males and females are practically identical. The Robin is a member of the thrush family and is also a relative of other garden favourites, the Blackbird and the sadly declining Nightingale. Robins can be seen in parks, gardens, scrubland and woodland throughout the year but at this time of year become more visible and audible. As soon as Robin chicks come of age, it is every Robin for themselves. Males and females defend territories outside mating season, unusually with both performing the autumn and winter song.
Also known as Robin Redbreast, it may look beautiful but can be a real bully! The Robin will fight with incredible ferocity to defend its territory and may fight another Robin to the death, especially if that involves a well stocked bird feeder! The Robin's diet is varied and is likely to change throughout the year depending on availability, food stuff includes insects, spiders, worms, seeds, fruit and berries. When our island was a forest the Robin would have likely followed the wild boar around and fed from the unearthed worms in the boars' wake, this behaviour has been adapted to them becoming our ‘garden friend.’ They often perch nearby waiting for gardeners to disturb the soil and will swoop in for the easy meal. Sadly the recovery of ringed birds has indicated that the most common cause of premature death in Robins is being killed by domesticated cats.
Robins have been associated with Christmas since Victorian times. It is thought that their appearance on Christmas cards was inspired by Victorian postmen who were known as Robin Red Breasts due to their red waistcoats. The Victorians were responsible for some fantastic wildlife discoveries and exploration, but also of some awful wildlife crimes like when Robin skins became popular as decorative features of ladies’ hats! Each robin has a unique breast pattern, and can (with difficulty) be recognised individually. And as for the colour, there are a number of origin myths explaining how the Robin got its red breast. Some legends say that the Robin was entirely brown, but was stained by the blood of Jesus as he was dying on the cross. The robin is said to have picked out the thorns of his crown, or to have sung a comforting tune in Jesus’ final moments. Other tales describe how the robin brought food to the souls in purgatory and its breast was scorched by the flames.