Robin: the bird profiles
There’s no mistaking a robin… or so you might think. Can you tell a young robin apart from a tit? Here’s everything you need to know about one of the most famous birds around.
Despite its size, the robin (Erithacus rubecula) is an adventurous little songbird. While other birds fly away at the slightest of movements, a robin will remain calm and collected even just a few metres from you. With its rust-red chest, robins are unmistakable and a common garden visitor. In winter, the portly birds puff out their feathers even more, forming a layer of insulation against the cold.
- Robin: key facts
- How to recognise the robin
- Help the robin!
Robin: key facts
|Lifespan||Approximately 3-5 years|
|Habitat||Forests, parks and gardens|
|Food preferences||Soil living insects and their larvae, as well as berries and fruits|
|Threats||Nest robbers and food shortages in winter|
How to recognise the robin
The robin is a small, round songbird. Its back and wings are olive-brown, and its stomach is a considerably lighter grey-white. The famous rust-red colour saturates not only the robin’s breast, but climbs over its beak to the eyes. With such a distinctive feature, robins are hard to miss. And that’s not to mention their strikingly large, black eyes, which provide just enough light to see at dusk.
How to recognise a young robin
Without the rust-red chest, young robins are far less distinctive than their parents. Their brown plumage is streaked with golden yellow speckles and only their light-coloured belly harks to what will soon be the famous red chest.
How to recognise a robin egg
Robins produce four to seven eggs per clutch. Each egg is about two centimetres in size, white-yellow, and speckled with red-brown spots.
How to tell the difference between male and female robins
It is difficult to distinguish male robins from females at first glance. The grey border that surrounds a robin’s red chest is wider in males than females, but this changes with age, so is a tough spot without experience.
Since females rarely sing, one of the more obvious ways to distinguish males from females – at least during breeding season – is to notice which bird is singing.
What is the perfect habitat for robins?
Robins prefer breeding near water, in deciduous, mixed or coniferous forests, as well as in man-made parks and gardens. Since they look for food mainly on the ground, areas with a little undergrowth are best.
Where do robins build their nests?
Robins build their nests near the ground. In forests, they use the undergrowth and natural hollows. In parks and gardens, they are more likely to use hedges, brushwood heaps or even wood stacks. The bowl-shaped nest is made of moss and grass, and padded with animal hair or feathers.
When is the breeding season of robins?
Robins breed from March to July, raising up to 3 clutches. The female incubates her eggs for about 14 days, while her partner supplies her with food. After hatching, the young are fed in the nest for another 14 days. This is a dangerous time for the young hatchlings. Since the nest is so close to the ground, they are susceptible to nest robbers like cats and magpies. And it’s precisely because of this danger, that robins will often begin building their second nest before the first brood is fully independent.
Where do robins spend the winter?
Robins don’t migrate during winter. Instead, males defend their territory year-round, which is why you will hear their singing in the colder months. A peculiarity of the robin, is that the females stick around as well, mostly looking for and gathering food. In spring, robins reunite with their partners and enjoy the warmer months together.
What does a robin’s song sound like?
A robin’s song begins with a few high-pitched, clear tones. These are promptly followed by a faster, chirping verse that is somewhat melancholy. A robin’s call, usually heard at dusk, is also characteristic, and sounds like a fast ticking clock: “Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick”.
Help the robin!
There are several ways to make it easier for robins to settle in your garden. Especially in winter, garden birds often need additional support because their natural food supply is insufficient.
What do robins eat?
Robins prefer to search the ground for small insects and their larvae, but are partial to berries and fruits. You can also offer them soft food in the form of oat flakes, raisins and apples. If you want to know more about the food preferences of different garden birds, have a look at our article “Make your own bird food“.
Which birdhouses are suitable for robins?
Robins are happy to use bird boxes, but they do prefer large entrances–about 10 centimetres high. Spotted flycatchers, wagtails and wrens will also make use of a birdhouse with such a large opening. You can find more tips on the materials and dimensions for your birdhouse, and how best to clean it in our article on building your own bird box.
How can I support robins even more?
Since robins prefer to search for insects in the undergrowth, a healthy ground fauna is essential.
Robins are real water lovers; often found near bodies of water and in humid places. If you don’t want to install a pond in your garden right away, however, set out a bird bath. Your garden robins will be happy for it and are sure to splash around in the warmer months.
Tip: A bird bath is also a place for birds to drink. All garden birds, such as blackbirds and great tits, will be happy for the water, especially in the warmer months.