by: S. Roberts
The humble robin is a traditional Christmas symbol in the UK, the colourful bird often depicted on our festive greetings cards and Christmas gift wrapping. We also use little robin decorations to trim our Christmas trees and our Christmas cakes or chocolate logs. It's hardly surprising that we cherish this pretty, cheerful little bird as part of our Christmas festivities because he is so colourful and most other birds have migrated to warmer climates. And during our long bleak winters it lifts us to hear the chirpy song of the festive robin.
However, there is more to this chirpy fellow then just cute Christmas cards of him posing on snow covered post boxes and nesting in old copper watering cans.
Robins live through out Europe (Except the far North) and Western Siberia. We notice an increased number of robins in the UK during our winter months as robins in colder climates move to warmer wintering gathering grounds during the autumn.
Robins who live in close proximity to people can become rather tame, especially towards avid gardeners. Some cheeky robins have learned to take advantages of unearthed worms caused from gardeners digging and turning the soil.
It has also been discovered that robins can fish. Not for large fish though, the robin itself being only 14 cm and weighing between 14 and 21 grams. Robins can hover and dive for fish in shallow waters.
Male robins are very territorial and sing to proclaim their territory, what sound like a cheerful winter song to us is actually a warning of occupation to other robins in the area. Robins will fight to defend their territory.
Robins mate and nest in late March. The female robin builds a nest from dry dead leaves and moss in crevasses in trees, wall cavities or in under growth.
Because robins don't build traditional nests with twigs and sticks and instead simply line holes and crevasses is why we hear tales of robins nesting in old watering cans and wellington boots.
The female lays between 4 and 6 small white to slightly blue speckled eggs which she incubates for 2 weeks.
At two weeks old the robin chicks can fly. By this time the father robin feeds his offspring for a further 3 week until the chicks become independent at around five weeks old, meanwhile the female rears her second brood.
Chicks are not born with the trademark vibrant red breast feathers. They shed their chick feathers to make way for their splash of red on their breasts.
Not many robin chicks get to show off their new red feathers with pictures poses on top of snow covered post-boxes or pine-trees because more than a half of the chicks die during their first year.
However, robins can live up to the ripe old age of 5 years, which is something to sing about.
So spare a thought for this festive little bird this Christmas time because he works hard for his living. Maybe leave them some tasty Christmas treats on your bird table, some bacon rind and a stuffing ball. And maybe leave out a few old terracotta plant pots for a homeless female robin looking for somewhere to build their nests.