Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
For use with Grade 4, Module 2
The robin (Erithacus rubecula) is undoubtedly one of Britain’s most dearly loved birds (3). It is instantly recognisable due to the rusty-red breast; indeed, ‘Robin redbreast’ and simply ‘redbreast’ are well-known alternative names (5). The sexes are very similar, but juveniles lack the red breast and are mottled with browns and buffs (6). The robin is one of the few birds to sing throughout the winter; its melodious, liquid song is a further feature that has endeared this species to the public (6). A short ‘tick’ call is also produced (2).
Although the robin has been recorded feeding on a very wide range of food, the majority of the diet consists of invertebrates soft fruit and seeds (3). As most of the food is taken from the ground, snowfall can cause huge numbers of deaths (3).
Robins are very territorial birds throughout the year; in winter both males and females defend their own territory, and males often hold the same territory throughout their lives (3);Territories are defended by means of singing from a prominent perch, and by aggressively driving intruders away (3). During the breeding season, a female is allowed into a male’s territory; she makes the cup-shaped nest of dead leaves and moss with a lining of hair (6). The nest is often located in unusual places, such as in old teapots, jacket pockets, and on shelves in buildings, as well as in more ‘natural’ locations such as amongst ivy (6). After the end of March, between four and six white or faintly bluish, speckled eggs are laid (7), and incubate by the female for up to 15 days. After hatching the young are fed by the female on items of food brought to the nest by the male (7). Two broods are usually produced each year, although a pair may occasionally go on to rear a third (6).
Not surprisingly, there is much folklore surrounding the robin, and it has featured in many poems and fables. Furthermore, in Britain the robin is closely associated with Christmas. The first postmen wore bright red waistcoats, and were popularly known as ‘Robins’; this may explain not only why robins are often featured on Christmas cards, but also why they are frequently depicted holding a letter in the beak, delivering the mail (5).
The robin is not currently threatened.
Conservation action has not been targeted at the robin.
Find out more
For more information on the robin:
For more on British birds:
- RSPB: http://www.rspb.org.uk
For more information on the robin and other bird species:
- BirdLife International: http://www.birdlife.org
Incubate - To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates - Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
Territorial - Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
Territory - An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a colony.
- BirdLife International (2018). Erithacus rubecula. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22709675/131953953.
- Mullarney, K., Svensson, L., Zetterstrom, D., & Grant, P.J. (1999) Collins Bird Guide. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London.
- Lack, P. (1986) The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. D. Poyser Ltd, Calton.
- RSPB (2009) The population status of birds in the UK: https://www.rbbp.org.uk/downloads/BoCC%20postcard.pdf
- Greenoak, F. (1979) All the birds of the air; the names, lore and literature of British birds. Book Club Associates, London.
- Gooder, J. (1982) Collins British Birds. William Collins Sons and Co Ltd, London.
- RSPB (2002) Pers. comm.
Text © Wildscreen Arkive www.wildscreen.org
™ IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a trade mark of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
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