In 1961, the British section of the International Council for the Bird Preservation, were set the task of choosing Britain’s national bird. After a long correspondence in The Times, they chose the robin. With its bright redbreast, bold upright stance and air of general cockiness, it is easily recognised by most people. Its popularity has been enhanced by its tameness, and bold interaction with us, from patiently following a gardener’s footsteps, waiting for worms and grub to be turned over in the soil, to feeing from the hand. It has even been known to enter houses and perch on the inside.
The British Isles has a resident robin population of an estimated 6.7 million pairs, which is widespread throughout the country. They can be found in all manner of habitats – from deep woodland to city centres. Robins are more adapted to life in poor life, and are more active when few other bird are about. They tend to be amongst the earliest birds in the dawn chorus and one of the last to stop in the evening.
Their diet comprises of insects, larvae, worms, beetles and spiders, seeds of various weeks, soft fruits and berries. In our gardens, however, it is partial to cake, especially fruit cake, coconut, biscuits, and even uncooked pastry. Robins are also very partial to meal worms, which it will often take from the hand.
Robins choose a wide variety of sites to build nests, including barbeques, discarded kettles, watering cans and machinery to name but a few. They do also nest in more conventional sites such as crevices, hollowed tree stumps, sheltered banks, or on the ground amongst thick ivy, nettles and grass. Breeding territories tend to average 0.55 ha – about six would fit into an average size football field. Male and female protect their territory, but defend their winter territories individually.
The nest often comprises of moss, fine grass and leaves, lined with hair and feathers. A clutch of 5 to 6 eggs are produced, and incubated by the female for 12-15 days. The young are fed by both parents, and fledge after a further 12-14 days.