Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Saturday, 10 October 2009


The Robin is Britain's unofficial national bird, after being voted most popular bird by public ballot in the 1960's.

A small, brown bird, about 5”, with a red breast, makes this an easy bird to identify, although the sexes are similar.

They feed on a diet of insects, snails, worms and small seeds, and can be found in gardens, woodland, parks, waste ground and hedges.

Robins will sing throughout the year; usually one of the first birds to be heard in the morning; and sometimes, even sing through the night, especially in built up areas, around streetlights. Their song is a flowing, melodic warble, clear and rippling. Their 'tick tick' calls are distinctive, especially when repeated quickly, like a clockwork toy being wound up.

There are many superstitions about the Robin. Its position when singing was believed to forecast the weather. If it sang on top of a bush the weather would be warm, while if it sang from within the branches then rain was on the way. It was also thought to be extremely unlucky to kill the bird. According to one superstition, if you killed a Robin your hands would not stop shaking, while anyone who broke its eggs would have something valuable of their own broken.

In the garden, they’ll sometimes follow a gardener at close quarters, swooping down to pick up any insects that may be unearthed, seeming very tame. But in their world, it’s a very different story.

Male Robins are noted for their highly aggressive territorial behaviour. The male marks out the boundaries of his territory by singing loudly, especially in the spring, and will ruthlessly attack other males that stray into their territories, and have even been observed attacking other small birds without apparent provocation. Such attacks sometimes lead to fatalities, accounting for up to 10% of adult Robin deaths in some areas.
Robins are very possessive of their territories; even the female has a territory of her own in winter. In order to defend their winter territories, the females have to sing and display just like males do.

In spring the females have to persuade the males to stop fighting them and start co-operating with them in the raising of a family. To do this, when they encroach into the males territory they behave like young birds begging for food, thus stimulating the males to feed them, rather than fight them.

The nest is built by the female, consisting of a bulky cup of dead leaves, grass and moss lined with hair, fine roots and occasionally feathers. It is usually well concealed in ivy banks, at the base of trees and, occasionally, in garden sheds.

Eggs are laid in April to June, 5-6, white with reddish speckles. Incubation takes 12-15 days by the female only, and beginning when the last egg is laid. She can lay 2-3 broods per year.

Both parents tend the young, initially the female broods and the male brings all the food. Because of high mortality in the first year of life, a Robin has an average life expectancy of 1.1 years; however, once past its first year it can expect to live longer; typically about 2 years. Juveniles are brown, with buff spotting, and no red breast.

After moulting in August-October they look just like adults.

Erithacus rubecula, The European Robin.


  1. Excellent post my friend. I've just been listening to our resident Robin in full voice. We will soon have to keep an eye out for the annual influx of their northern relations. FAB

  2. Beautifuls et of pictures Keith. I only managed to get one nice picture of it during my trip to France and strangely I did not see any during this summer! I love your shots, they are wonderful!

  3. Absolutely beautiful Keith. I shouldn't think there can be anyone who doesn't love Robins and anyone who ever thought of harming one deserved to have their hands fall off, never mind shake ;)

    I particularly love the first two photos and the second of the juveniles.

    Good luck in your search for the mystery bird, I for one am very intrigued, I love a good mystery!

  4. This is an excellent post about the Robin, thanks for posting Keith.

  5. simply beautifully captured shots...lovely colours & the compositions...perfect moments!

  6. Good to see someone celebrating the common species which are often overlooked. With a high mortality rate and such a short life it's surprising the remain so numerous. Makes one realise how devastating one bad season can be and two consecutive ones would be awful....

  7. Just yesterday I saw a little Robin for real. I must say, because of your photos, Robin has became my favorite bird. Great, I enjoy every shot with it. Not to say I enjoyed the real one also.
    Thank you, Keith.

  8. Oh your Robins are so pretty! They look like our little wrens here! Ours are sooo different. Ours are large like bluejays..but sounds like they are the same in behaviour!!
    What wonderful shots hon!! Wonderful post!!
    Namaste, Sarah

  9. Yes, Robins can be aggressive. I also heard that shortly after leaving the nest babies are shooed off to find their own territories. This year two babies came daily for food and there was no sign of an adult, so perhaps there is some truth in it.
    Your pictures are awesome, and so detailed I feel I'm looking at the real thing.

  10. Excellent my friend, I am thinking that robins in the USA are bigger and there reddish markings cover more of the chest and less of the head area.... but I have no pictures to back this up....
    I like all the information.

  11. did a quick look up - basically says we named our Robin after yours but is not closely related - USA Robin of the Thrush family.... so closer to the Brasilian red-breast.

  12. Cheers Frank. I love listening to their little song. Sometimes when I’m gardening, one sits a few feet away, waiting for some goodies, and quietly serenading me while I work. Just perfect.

    Thanks for your comment Chris. They are such lovely little birds, and very friendly at times.

    ShySongbird, have to agree with your statement there.
    No luck with the ‘mystery bird’ this morning. I spent so long searching I was almost late for work lol

    Thanks Roy, glad you enjoyed it. A lot of fun researching, and going through some of my archives for pictures. The first and last were taken a couple of days ago.

    Flyingstars thank you for your comment. I find these little birds so photogenic, and always willing to pose.

    Thank you Carol. The little songbirds certainly have a tough and short life. All the more reason to celebrate and enjoy them I think.

    Thank you Marius, very kind of you to say. I hope you see many more. :)

    Sarah, thank you. They are great little characters, and can be very trusting of humans at times.

    Valerie thank you for your comment, appreciate it. I’ve heard that too, about being sent off to find their own territories. Tough life they have.

    Thanks for your comments Ginger, and the link. Interesting reading. I had an idea they were bigger, but didn’t realise just how much. Ours are in the same family too; Thrushes. Glad you enjoyed all the info.

  13. Keith -- Wonderful robin post; well done. cheers, Wilma

  14. Thank you Wilma, appreciate your comment :)

  15. These photos are beautiful.

    Interesting, American robins are bigger (anyone surprised at this?) with a larger patch of red, and their eggs are blue.
    I don't know about the starting a family rituals...

    You know, I pulled over to take photos of this beautiful red tailed hawk, and as soon as I stopped the car, he flew away into the woods.

    Apparently my birding technique is lacking in finesse!

  16. It was so interesting to learn about your robins and compare them to our American Robins. That first and last photo especially was beautiful - great lighting. Your Robins are more colorful and seem a bit more aggressive than ours.

  17. Thanks for your comment Bob :)

    Jen, thanks for your comment. Shame about the hawk.
    You always manage to put a smile on my face; thanks :)

    Thanks Shelley. Those two pictures were taken late in the day, low sun and golden. Great for landscape, but I wasn’t too sure if it suited bird pictures or not.

  18. A great post. Fabulous. The third one is my favourite, but its hard to choose from such a great selection.

  19. These images are fantastic! I'm also a bird lover. Great work here!! :-)

  20. the light in most of these photos is enchanting and makes your portraits divine.

  21. Everything you said about your robin makes him sound so similar to those we have which is a larger bird but the habits seems nearly identical. I just saw one today eating a crabapple.

  22. Thanks for your comment Angie.
    That third one, I remember he'd fluffed out his feathers, sank down on his legs, and just sat in the sunlight, as though to take the weight off his legs.

    Sammy-J thank you for stopping by and commenting. Appreciated. Birds are such beautiful creatures aren't they.

    Tammie, thank you for your lovely comment. :)

    Thanks Abe. It seems the Robins are very similar indeed; except for their size. I'd love to see one of your Robins. They are a rare vagrant here. One day, maybe.

  23. Brilliant post Keith. Great illustrations and description.

  24. Keith...what a great essay of the Robin--I learned so much that I never knew! Of course as stated by others the American Robin is quite different...I always feel if I see a Robin picking on the ground, that ground is healthy full of worms and worms make great soil! Your photos are splendid! Enjoyed my visit here today very much!!

  25. Thanks John. It's a post I've wanted to do for a while, and finally got round to it.

    Dixxe, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

  26. I always thought that the great British public's voting the robin as favourite bird showed a distinct lack of imagination. Kind of like voting for pizza as favourite food or the Ford Fiesta as favourite car. But I do love robins!

  27. He is definitely my favorite European Bird....so adorable. I enjoyed reading all the facts. Thanks for the research!

  28. Thanks for your comment Quantum Tiger. Voting and the 'public' will always produce some 'interesting' results. No denying their popularity though. :)

    Thanks Kelly. It was interesting doing the research. I learnt a lot myself.

  29. Stunning photography the pictures of the Robins would make great Christmas cards

  30. Thanks for your comment Keith.
    Not a bad idea :)

  31. What a wonderful piece about robins. The pictures are outstanding Keith, not least the one of the robin in the snow.

  32. Thanks Emma, glad you enjoyed it.

  33. I think they are wonderful, they sit still. For aggression the Wren takes some beating, had one nesting in a hole in my coal house wall, had to think twice before using the back door. Lovely post.

  34. Adrian, thanks for your comment. They're very friendly and curious; great subjects.
    That Wren of yours sounds very protective lol