DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

THE ROBIN-Erithacus rubecula

Robins belong to the Family Muscicapidae in the Order Passeriformes  { perching birds} and the Class Aves. The robin was once classed with the thrush family, but is now generally accepted as a member of the old world flycatchers Muscicapidae.

The name robin applies to other birds in other parts of the world such as the American robin Turdus migratorius {which is a thrush} and the Australian red robin of the genus Petroica. in archaic times the bird was known affectionately as "Bob".

The robin is famed for its fluting, warbling song  which has been described in many lyrical ways. One of my personal favourites is the one I came across in an old bird book which stated--" --the song is composed of strains of great tenderness and beauty as well as sweetly-modulated execution" 

The song which is at its sweetest during the breeding season and spring time in particular, when the male often sings into the evening and sometimes into the night. This has led to it being mistaken for the nightingale in the southern parts of England.

In his book " The Life of the Robin " 1943, David Lack, the author, reveals that his study of robins ascertains some interesting facts. He found that both sexes sing in the autumn and defend their individual territories { until then it was generally considered that only the male sang}. David Lack also came to the conclusion that the singing had but one purpose, to keep other birds out of their territories. He also discovered that the females were more likely to move away from their natal territories than the males. 

Robin

Courtesy of Francis C Franklin CC BY-SA 3.0 License.l

Popular bird

In Victorian times, postmen , were referred to as robins alluding to the red waistcoats they wore. The first Christmas cards, which appeared around 1870, had the robin as a favourite image. This is still the case today which highlights the popularity of this beautiful bird here in the UK and Ireland.

The robin is essentially a woodland bird but is adaptable. They have found that an association with man and his property is beneficial to them. gardeners are often accompanied by robins as they go about their gardening duties, particularly so, during the winter months. Robins if left unmolested, or fed regularly, become very tame.

I have often had this charming companion within inches of me as I have dug the soil. This confiding little bird rids the garden of all manner of insect pests and their larvae. This is true for many thousands of gardeners. Many robins will take food straight from the palm of ones hand when the trust has been built up.

It is the bird lovers need to be close to wild birds that the robin is regarded with such affection.  it is not because of the robins lifestyle for they are assertive and aggressive with other birds which include their own kind.they will readily drive off other robins, not only from their territories but from feeding stations and bird tables. However, during prolonged cold weather, an ancestral instinct kicks in  and this allows them to tolerate other robins to feed, for the good of the species as a whole surviving.!

When a robin is alarmed it will raise its tail and bob its head up and down. 

Robin singing

Photograph courtesy of Ernst Vikne  CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Description of  Erithacus rubecula

Both sexes are similar and cannot be told apart in the field. They are 14 cm long with a wingspan of 21 cm, and weigh 16-22 g.

The plumage is olive brown above, with an orange red face, throat and breast; bluish- grey flanks,and  whitish belly. in relation to body size the wings are medium small, the tail medium to medium long, the neck short, the bill thin, medium and of a brown colour. Legs medium length, also brown as are the eyes.

The robin has a characteristic dumpy appearance and perky stance, instantly recognizable by an experienced eye even in poor light when the red breast is not obvious.  the robin has a flitting flight and hops. It is very confiding and will, as previously mentioned, approach closely. often perches in a shrub with its head on one side watching. They have a similar action as the flycatcher, that is to say it will dart out from a perch to catch flying insects and return immediately to the same perch. They are early breeders and many will have paired up as early as December or January.

Image taken in a Japanese garden in Toulouse.

Courtesy of Piere-Selim  CC BY-SA 2.0 License. {originally posted to Flickr}.

Lifestyle and breeding of the robin

 During the breeding season the female will leave the territorial singing to the males. It is the female that will choose the nest site and build the nest. The male will bring its mate food and the female calls and quivers to him in the manner a fledgling would. These extra supplies of food will help to build her up to face the rigours of the breeding season.

Pairs will normally stay together throughout the breeding season { although he may mate with another female should he get the chance} the male will take care of the first brood while the female prepares for the second.

The robins nest is, more often than not, under shelter of some kind, and is loosely constructed, being a rather shapeless, shallow cup of dead leaves, moss and grass blades lines with wool or hair. The most usual and doubtless the most primitive situation for the nest, is on a bank, or even on the ground under a bush or grass tussock near a fence or post.

However, in Britain and Ireland this confiding little bird has adapted to man made sites, such as old kettles and pans or even cast off shoes and the like, either on the ground or hung up {as in a shed}; However, it does  not locate its nest among twigs of hedges and trees as other small birds are apt to do.  They will readily take to man made nest boxes, but these need to be open at the front. It must be located low down, but high enough to be safe from cats.

The eggs are typically white, freckled with dull red, but they considerably within limits. That is to say markings may be scanty or copious, or tend to form a zone at the large end. Sometimes the background colour is more creamy. There are records of white spotless eggs that occasionally occur. The usual number is 5 but 7 is not unknown and they may be encountered from Late March to June or even July. two to three broods  per season is not uncommon.

Incubation is carried out by the female and it takes from 14-16 days. the chicks are born blind and helpless. however, after being fed nutritional food by the parents they are ready to fledge at 13-16 days. Robins are capable of breeding at the age of one year old. Fledglings are brown and distinctly spotted.

During the autumn and the young have dispersed the male and female go their separate ways, each setting up their individual winter territories. 

Robin with newly fledged young.

photograph courtesy of Juan Emilio CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Conservation issues.

Here in the UK there are no present concerns about the robin. The BTO, Nest Recording Scheme for 2011 reported that the breeding season of 2010 revealed the robin had a very average season.   The report  from the scheme can be viewed at the BTO website. Click on Links banner at the right hand side of this page.

According to the BTO Garden Bird Watch survey { released 2012} population of robins in gardens are stable. In 1995 {when the survey began} the percentage of reported sightings was 82.3% in 2011 the figure was 82.3%.

Familiar Wild Birds {1800's}

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