The Robin is the most familiar and most loved of all our garden birds. Indeed, even folk not especially interested in birds will still talk about ‘their’ Robin in their garden. Actually though, it’s the predictable, tame and trusting nature of Robins which fools people into thinking it’s the same bird they see year-after-year, when in fact it’s almost certainly a different individual – Robins have an average lifespan of only around on year, and about one in four never even reach the age of one. Both male and female adult Robins have the same distinct red breast and can’t be confused with any other UK bird, though youngsters have a speckled brown breast. Interestingly, the behaviour we see in Robins on our shores is very different to mainland Europe, where they’re a shy and secretive species of the forest.

What sound does a Robin make?

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Video footage of Robins

Robin nesting and breeding habits

Nests are nearly always built in some sort crevice, hole, or tucked behind something. So walls, dead trees, banks, piles of logs, in climbing plants against a wall or fence etc. Open-fronted nest boxes will be used but only if they’re well hidden – e.g. in a climbing wall plant. The nest is usually close to the ground or even on it. The female Robin takes care of the nest building, which is a neat cup made up of dead grass, leaves and moss, then lined with hair. There are two, sometimes three, broods per season, with 4-6 eggs in the clutch which the female alone incubates. The male bird provides much of the female’s food during nest building, egg laying and the incubation period.

Robin history and population trends

The species has increased in numbers considerably since the mid-1980s, though there was a decline around 2009-2010. However, there has since been a recovery and, overall, the population is strong and is therefore listed as green status. Less very harsh winters are probably a key factor in the increased population.

Behaviour traits of Robins

The Robin’s territorial instincts are the most notable aspect of the species’ behaviour: Firstly, resident birds will hold their territories for a whole year (very rare for any species of bird), with the mated pair defending their territory in the breeding season (an area usually about 0.55 of a hectare), then male and female birds defending smaller and separate territories in the autumn and early and mid-winter months. This strong territorial behaviour is the reason why Robins will sing outside of the breeding season (albeit the song outside the breeding season is different and not as strong), whereas most other species of songbird don’t (because they have no reason to). Also of note is the way that a Robin will often appear close to you when you start a gardening job such as digging or clearing up leaves, and will then follow you around the garden as you work. Of course it’s doing this because your activity is uncovering food such as worms and insects. This behaviour reflects how the species has adapted differently in the UK to get value from human habitation, whereas in mainland Europe Robins are shy and secretive birds of woodland and forest only.

Robin diet and food

Small worms, insects, insect larvae and spiders make up much of the diet, plus also seeds, soft fruit and berries in the winter months. In the garden, our suggested foods are: Sunflower Heart ChipsChopped Peanuts, Robin and Friends Seed Mix, plus Live Mealworms – especially in the breeding season as adult birds will feed them to their young.

Frequently Asked Questions

What colour is a female Robin?

The female Robin is the same colour as a male Robin – the two are almost impossible to tell apart (there are very subtle differences in plumage but not to the colour).

Does a Robin mate for life?

Generally, no, Robins do not mate for life, though a pair will typically stay together during the same breeding season and have up to three broods. It’s also worth noting that Robins typically have a very short lifespan, with few individuals surviving to anyway breed in a second year.

How long do Robins live UK?

The average lifespan of a Robin in the UK is just 13 months, though some individual Robins may live much longer than that – the oldest known being 11 years and five months. For that average figure to be achieved, only around 40% of Robins which fledge make it past one year.

How long does a Robin stay with her babies?

Fledgling Robins stay with their parents for around three weeks after leaving the nest.

Do Robins stay in your garden all year round?

Robins do keep a territory going even outside the breeding season, so yes they will often stay in and around a garden all year. However, it usually won’t be the same individual bird or birds because the lifespan of the Robin is so short (average is just 13 months).