European robin – The songbird soloist

The European robin, Erithacus rubecula, was this year voted as Britain’s National Bird, no wonder with over 6.5 million breeding territories in the UK, its presence all year round and characteristic red breast make it well known among the British public.

When the breeding season is over and bird song in urban gardens drifts away this little brown bird finds a perch in a tree or bush and continues to fill our ears with its melodious song. The tone of its autumn tune is however different to that of spring, taking on many say a sort of sadness, as it sings to keep a territory and food supplies. It is a good time of year to appreciate the robin’s song, as there is no struggle to isolate it due to lack of other bird song, allowing you to memorise this bird’s tune and pick it out in the busy dawn chorus when it begins again. Once the season changes and robins begin to sing in their spring style, their tune becomes assertive and dominant. They are hoping to attract a mate, most will have achieved this half way through January, and to hold a territory, a size of approximately 0.55 ha (RSPB). Although both males and females sing, the males are those singing during the breeding season.

It is also well known that robins may sing while streetlights are still on. Some say it is due to this artificial human influence confusing the bird, making them still think there is daylight. However other theories have suggested it is due to the reduction in urban noise at this time, which causes robins to sing as it is simply too busy during the day.

There is however one time of year when these birds, both the male and female, will fall silent. When moulting they are vulnerable and will retreat from their stage until the end of summer, when the process is complete, but for now we are still able to enjoy their autumn song.

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A Johnson
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