An Ode to the Christmas Robin
Is there a more ‘christmassy’ animal than the robin? Arguably reindeer, perhaps a partridge or maybe a turtle dove – but the robin undeniably steals the show. The cover stars of copious Christmas cards, especially in the UK, no mantelpiece is complete without these jolly birds sat resplendently in red. A beloved bird throughout the year, the robin comes into its own in midwinter, when its bold colours stand out against the white of snow.
At this most festive time of year, here are five facts that you need to know about robins!
1) Kings of Christmas
It is perhaps puzzling that a bird found all year round would be especially celebrated at Christmas, but the robin has two very strong links to this time of year. Firstly, the very first postmen during Victorian times wore red jackets and were thus associated with the bird when delivering Christmas cards.
The second link is biblical. Some say that the robin was actually present at the birth of Christ – the very first Christmas robin! As a fire was lit in the stable close to the manger, the robin’s feathers caught alight, leaving the bird with its famous red breast.
2) A National Emblem
Robins are not only admired at Christmas-time; they fought off all the competitors to be voted as ‘Britain’s National Bird’ in 2015, pipping the blackbird and the barn owl to the title. As well as being a common feature of many British gardens, robins are also relatively tame, and have earned the nickname ‘gardeners’ friend’ due to their plucky behaviour.
3) Dedicated Choristers
You may brave the winter weather to carol sing throughout your neighbourhood, but the robin can top that. They are one of the few birds to still sing not only during winter months, but also throughout the night as well.
Unlike warblers and finches that wait until the springtime dawn chorus, robins are committed to their cause and, as a result, provide natural melodies during even the darkest of times.
It has been noted that urban robins actually sing louder than their countryside counterparts in order to combat the sound of traffic and city life.
4) Methodical Migrators
European robins are resident throughout the continent, living in a multitude of different habitats with no need to move around like swans and swallows – right?
In some cases yes, as males stay put to defend their fiercely fought territories. In some cases, no: female robins may fly further south in order to avoid the colder weather in the north whilst in the UK, Scandinavian robins cross over the north sea in times of harsh winters on the sub-continent.
The consequence: the robin in your garden during summer may not be the same bird that you see at Christmas – a shocking revelation! They may not be wholly loyal, but they sure are elegant no matter the season.
5) Bizarre Breeders
When it comes to nesting, robins seemingly hate to be mainstream. While most birds breed during springtime when food is most abundant and the weather is more pleasant, robins buck that trend by nesting as early as March in order to have several broods throughout the year.
Likewise, most round-holed nest boxes suit a number of garden birds, just not the picky robin. Their preference of box is a more open-faced design, and even then, they choose to nest in ridiculous locations. Hanging baskets, old boots and disused kettles are vaguely logical locations, while nesting inside old tractors and WWII planes presents a more risky proposition.
Although this is a behaviour attributed to other bird species, examples of barmy robin nests are alarmingly regular. You couldn’t really get more festive than a Christmas robin nesting inside a wreath…
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From everyone at Eco Companion, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!