Our favourite festive feathered friend

There’s so much to love about a robin. They’re easy to spot with their handsome red breasts, they’re people-friendly and they provide us with beautiful birdsong pretty much all year round. No wonder they’re the UK’s favourite bird, says the RSPB.

And Christmas is the time we really get to celebrate them. Stories about their association with the season go back in Christianity as far as the birth of Jesus, when a robin reportedly got its red chest from a spark as it fanned a fire to keep the baby warm. It became popular on Christmas cards in the Victorian era, often associated with the red uniforms of the posties who delivered them, who in turn were called ‘robins’.

They’ve been with us for centuries, with mentions of them dating back to Anglo-Saxon times. Historically, they’re woodland birds, who would follow large mammals such as wild boar around, knowing that their steps and digging about in the dirt would uncover worms and insects for them to eat.

They treat us in much the same way! They’re often called the ‘gardener’s friend’ as they’ll perch close by whilst you work, realising you are doing the heavy lifting for them!

Here’s some more facts about these festive favourites:

• Each robin has its own unique red breast feather pattern which makes it possible (though still very difficult!) to identify individuals.

• Though they normally only live between two and five years, the oldest recorded robin was 11 years and 5 months!

• Cold weather is really hard on robins – they can use up to 10 per cent of their body weight keeping warm on a night when temperatures plummet, so feeding them in our gardens especially in winter, is a big help! And that includes providing water.

• Though they seem friendly to us, they are fiercely territorial, and are capable of fighting to the death in spring to defend their patch as breeding starts.

• Since the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch began in 1979, robins have featured in the top 20 sightings every single year! Registration for January 2022’s event is now open rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

You can find out more on a number of RSPB reserves this festive season as we’re running special robin-themed trails following the release of Aardman’s delightful Robin Robin film on Netflix. For details of the trails, where to visit and more remarkable robin facts, go to rspb.org.uk/robinrobin

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About the Author

Tony Flanagan