Five facts you should know about robins

Robins are well known and indeed well loved birds in Scotland and across the rest of the UK too. In fact they were recently named the UK’s national bird following an opinion poll organised by David Lindo, aka the Urban Birder.

So, we obviously know what they look like and probably what they like to eat too since they can be such frequent garden visitors. But there’s always more to learn. Here are a few a facts you may not know about this fascinating little species.

Not all robins have a red breast

It may be the nickname we’re all familiar with but not all robins have a red breast. Juveniles of the species have a duller brown breast. They actually grow the red feathers after their first moult.

Robins can be pretty vicious

Robins are hugely territorial all year round. In spring and summer they hold territory for breeding and at other times it’s for feeding. Now, should another bird stray into their area they’re certainly not shy about letting the intruder know it’s not welcome. Robins will defend their territories to the death and fights can get pretty vicious with both birds attempting to peck, flap and kick their way to victory.

Robins will set up camp almost anywhere

Despite their feisty nature and the lengths they’ll go to to defend their territory, robins don’t seem to be particularly picky about where their nest actually is. They’ve been known to turn up in all manner of quirky locations including abandoned kettles, potato sacks, the pocket of a gardeners’ jacket, an unmade bed, and in this golf bag.

They don’t seem to like nest boxes with round entrance holes though, so you’ll need an open fronted one if you’re hoping for a couple of residents.

The life of a robin is short but sweet

Robins are relatively short lived birds. Nearly three quarters will reach the end of their lives in Britain before they are one year old, and the average is the ripe old age of two years. However the record for longevity is held by a bird that survived until it was eight years, two months and 30 days old! (Set in 1977).

What’s the best way to attract robins? Dig a hole of course...

The best way to see a robin in your garden is to dig. No, they’re not being nosy - they’re hoping for buried treasure of the wiggling variety. While you’re busy digging robins will perch on branches or fence posts nearby to inspect the newly-turned earth for worms.

The reason they arrive when you dig is because of how they evolved as a woodland species that benefitted from a relationship with wild boar. This is how they used to get their calories – by following boar around and taking advantage of the fact those animals uproot and turn over the soil with their snouts whilst they foraged. Robins would pick up the little soil invertebrates that were too small for the boar to be interested in.

Since wild boars were removed from our suite of native mega fauna by humans, robins had to look elsewhere for the partner that turned over the soil and exposed their favoured food. And that’s where we came in!