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.
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 Chips, Chopped Peanuts, Robin and Friends Seed Mix, plus Live Mealworms – especially in the breeding season as adult birds will feed them to their young.
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.
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.
Video footage of Robins
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.