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How well do you know our red-breasted friend the robin?

Posted: Wednesday 27th December 2017 by Victoria Hill

Robin in the snowRobin in the snow

When you think of wildlife at Christmas, you'll most likely find the robin popping into your head. Most people will certainly think of robins as the bird of the season, but how much do you know about them? We've put together 10 fun facts about our red-breasted friends that you may not have known...

1. Did you know that postmen used to be called robins because of their red tunics and the reason the robin is associated with Christmas cards is that these were delivered by the red-coated postmen ‘robins’?


2. Robins are fiercely territorial over food supply. Not more than one robin will occupy a small garden unless it is their mate. When their food source becomes scarce in winter they will eat just about anything put out for them on a bird table, especially fatty foods such as bacon rind and cheese.


3. In winter, the robin puffs up its plumage to insulate its body against cold winds.


4. The best way to see a robin in your garden is to dig. Within minutes one may perch on a fence or branch nearby waiting to inspect the newly-turned soil for earthworms.


5. The robin has a distinctive and beautiful sounding call. It will sing to proclaim territory and attract a mate and usually sings all year round, although it is quieter in late summer when it moults.


6. Nearly three-quarters of robins in Britain die before they are one year old, either caught by predators or unable to fend for themselves. Ten percent of older robins die defending their territory.


7. When the male robin has found a mate, he will strengthen their bond by bringing the female food, such as worms and caterpillars, which she begs for noisily while quivering her wings and is often mistaken by the observer to be the mother feeding the young.


8. Both parents take responsibility when feeding and looking after their chicks until they are two weeks old when they can fly and become fully independent. They pair up for the breeding season (April to June) only.


9. Birds which raise an early brood are more likely to have a second or third brood in the same year. The female will sit on the clutch of 5-7 eggs while the male continues to feed and look after the year’s first fledgelings .


10. The British affection for the robin, whereby they are known to be friendly and sociable birds with gardeners’ is not shared elsewhere in Europe, where they are shot for food or for sport.


Bonus: The robin's red chest is, in reality, orange in colour - so why do we refer to it as being red? It's because it came to be known as a Robin in the fifteenth century when it was popular to give human names to familiar species. At the time in England, there was no word for the colour orange until the sixteenth century when the fruit called an Orange was introduced from Europe.

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