In the Spotlight- the Robin

The robin, Erithacus rubecula, is an iconic British bird species, with it’s vibrant ‘red’ breast making it very easy to identify. For many, many years the robin has been associated with Christmas and because of this many people believe the robin to be a winter bird, only to be seen during the cold winter months. However this is not the case, the robin is present and active in Britain all year round. So why has this bird become known as our Christmas friend?

In the 18th century the very first Christmas cards were sent and these were delivered by postmen wearing bright red coats, giving them the nickname ‘redbreast’. The association between the red coats of the postmen and the red breast of the robin was soon made and so the robin became a symbol of Christmas and began to appear on many Christmas cards. With this, came the association to winter.

Apart from this association, we do seem to notice these birds more often during winter and there are a few behavioural traits that make them more noticeable during this time. The robin is one of very few British birds that sing all year round. During autumn both males and females sing to defend their feeding territories. As early as December, the robin can begin its spring song, with the males singing to ward off other males who threaten their territory and to attract a mate. Also during winter, the robin will feed more on seeds and berries which could lure them into our gardens more often. And let’s not forget how much their red breast- which is actually a collection of orange feathers- stands out in winter against the bare trees and bushes.

Whatever the reasons, the robin has gone down in history as a symbol of Christmas, and therefore of winter. However, when spring comes around next year, keep your eyes open for our red breasted friend and you may start to notice just how abundant he is during our warmer months.

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Rachel Davies

Rachel Davies

Currently studying for an MRes in Wildlife Conservation at the University of Chester. Research focuses on the White-faced Darter, an endangered dragonfly species here in Britain. Rachel also has a blog titled 'working with wildlife'.
Rachel Davies

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