European Robin

The Wildlifer

Robbie in Willow Garden March 2022

Early morning singing Robin – May 2022

Robbie used to always assist me with the composting, now he or she assists with the worm farming – June 2022

The ever mindful and curious Robbie! – March 2022

European Robin

Erithacus rubecula

European Robin, robin, Robin Redbreast, Redbreast

Anyone who knows me well will know that l am not a typical ‘twitcher’ – someone obsessed with birds and collecting sightings. Still, they will know that l am, however, someone passionate about animals, wildlife and nature and my main focus for many years wasn’t so much avian but mammals.

A previous blog to Earthly Comforts told many a tale and story about my antics with animals, and of course, next to that, l have always loved bugs. But pushing those close to me would reveal that l have a soft spot for certain bird species: Woodpigeons, pigeons, starlings, blackbirds and red-breasted robins.

For as long as l have worked in the garden or with composts and the worm farms, l have always shared the space with a pair of resident robins. Even the new allotment has a couple that has taken to visiting when l am there. I am unaware of it – but maybe l am seen as a redbreast whisperer.

When out on my wild walks around Sandwich and also on occasion at Gazen Salts Nature Reserve, l do manage to capture the odd photograph of this charming and gregariously social bird. Yet having said that, this species is fiercely territorial and will, if needed, fight to the death to protect and defend it.

It is considered one of the most favourited garden birds in Britain. Easily recognisable from the bright red breast that it sports. It is a bird that is often shown on Christmas cards. In fact, this bird was declared the country’s National Bird in 1960.

The males and the females look mostly the same, although there are slight differences between the two sexes. Juvenile robins are very different from adults. Juveniles have brown breasts and only achieve red ones after their first moulting.

Generally, the species only live for a couple of years, although there are a few recordings of older birds, with one coming in at just over eleven years of age. Although this species has a higher mortality rate, there is also the counterbalance of high reproduction rates. Since the 1970s, the overall UK population has increased by more than forty per cent. There are an estimated six-plus million territories.

Many reasons can cause the death of the species; however, the highest ratios are usually found due to predation, such as hawks or cats. It’s not uncommon for them to fly into obstacles such as windows, succumbing to poisons or other chemicals that gardeners place down for different targets or even be struck by cars. The most noted cause of death, sadly, is the domestic cat.

Severe winters and harsh weather can also cause damage and harm to redbreast populations. Colder weather snaps mean that some bird species will suffer and lose upwards to ten per cent of their body weight in their efforts to keep warm.

This always highlights the importance of doing as much as possible to assist many of our bird species during colder climes. If birds like the robin cannot refuel their lost reserves, this can lead to fatalities. One of the main reasons l feed all year round and not just during the breeding season is to ensure that food and water are always available, especially during the winter months.

The redbreast is related to thrushes, nightingales and blackbirds. The robin measures around 5″ with a wingspan of 7-8″ and an average weight of around 15 – 22g.

Robins feed from a varied diet of earthworms and other microbes found in the soil, seeds, fruits, invertebrates, and other bugs and beetles on the wild side. On the domestic side, they will happily consume their all-time favourite mealworms, broken peanuts, crushed suet, tiny seeds found in bird mixes, raisins and sunflower hearts.

In the garden, l have noticed that my Mr or Mrs Robin are as excited about feeding on the bird table or on the suet coconut hanging in the tree as they are feeding among the bark chippings in the bed. But l have also noticed often that a rob will come and perch on the side of a compost heap whilst l turn it over. Rob eagerly hopped in as the time arose to snatch a tasty morsel or tantalising tidbit! I also know that once the feral pigeons have left the shallow feeding trays, Rob will have a quick survey and a scrummage where possible.

Robins start their courtship process around January, although the breeding season usually begins at the start of March. The nests, like blackbirds, are found near the ground, in hollow logs or log piles, tree trunks and so on. However, they are also known to build their nests in unusual locations. Like pots and abandoned gardening equipment, a neighbour once told me she had a pair nest in a pair of old Wellington boots!

The female robin is the nest builder, crafted using old dried leaves, hays, straw, dried grasses, moss and small twigs. When you see your robins collecting nesting materials, this is the sign they are preparing to build the nest. Usually, the red-breasted are one of the first species to begin the nest-building process. They prefer open-fronted nest boxes if you want to attract robins to your gardens. The nest is cup-shaped.

Robins are sometimes known to produce up to five broods a year, although the average is around three. Each clutch numbers between four to five eggs. A new egg is laid each day until all are produced. The eggs are in an incubation period of just below a fortnight.

Chicks are born naked. Both adults take care of the young. Feather quills begin to display around the three-day mark and will be mostly feathered by day ten. Fledging is around two weeks, and flight may start a few days later. The parents will still attend to their young ones once they are flying for a further three weeks.

It isn’t unknown for robins to sing at night under lamplight. I have often heard this, especially during late autumn when the clocks fall back an hour.

Robins are known to be human social and can become relatively tame. I have found this on many occasions accurate and will often manage to photograph a Robbie, who is sometimes only a few inches away from the lens.
European Robin – Wikipedia

Various Robins photographed around Sandwich during the breeding season 2022

Species Guide Directory

Designs – Earthly Comforts – Inspired by Nature – see collection here

Published by The Autistic Composter

Earthly Comforts is a wildlife journaling scrapbook focusing on the countryside, wildlife biodiversity and environmental conservation, flora and fauna volunteering projects, gardening, composting and vermiculture, inspiration, poetry and photography.

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