This year we celebrate Minsmere's 75 anniversary as an RSPB nature reserve, and we're planning an exciting programme of events throughout the year. Most of the spring walks are already on our website - https://events.rspb.org.uk/minsmere - and more will be added over the next few weeks, so keep checking and book your places as soon as possible.
As part of our celebrations, we're also starting a new weekly series of light-hearted blogs exploring the collective names of wildlife, starting with this blog. Birds will dominate this series, mainly because there are so many different collective nouns for different groups, but other wildlife will feature too. The theme each week will either be chosen to reflect the season (with the selected species being easier to find then), an RSPB campaign, or a "national/international" day.
I have researched many collective nouns on-line, and come up with some really exciting ones, though sadly some will be tricky to use for Minsmere unless something completely unexpected turns up. If the series proves popular, we may continue beyond this year, looking at some of these more unusual ones too.
So, it's about time I introduced our star species for this week. And where better to start than with the UK's national bird, the robin? I'm sure everyone will be familiar with this cheeky red-breasted garden bird, and there are several good reasons to choose it for the first blog in this series. Firstly, robins will have featured heavily on your Christmas cards and decorations. Secondly, our popular Robin Robin children's trail, in association with Aardman Animations and Netflix, is still running until 10 January, giving you one final weekend to join in at any participating RSPB nature reserve. Thirdly, robins are one of the few birds to sing throughout the year as they defend winter feeding territories from rivals, with their melancholy winter song brightening any walk at this time of year.
But what do you call a group of robins?
I've found at least eleven different collective nouns for robins - and I'm sure there are probably more.
Some of these are clearly linked to their plumage: a breast of robins, a blush of robins, a rouge of robins or a ruby of robins, for example. A round of robins probably also links to their appearance when they puff out their plumage on a cold winter day.
Photo by Steve Everett
Others reflect their association with Christmas, as you can also have a gift of robins or a carol of robins. I particularly like the latter as listening to two or three robins singing together it's easy to envisage a choir in song.
A worm of robins is an interesting one too, and one of the few collective nouns I've found that relate to the bird's diet. I guess the origin of this is linked to the phrase "the early bird catches the worm" since robins are typically the first birds to sing in gardens every morning and start feeding before it's properly light.
The next two relate to their behaviour. A riot of robins reflects their aggressive behaviour towards rival robins, and even other birds, especially when competing for food or a mate. A bobbin or robins possibly owes its origins to alliteration, but also reflects the robin's typical feeding behaviour as they dash from cover, bob up and down whilst checking for danger, then dash back to cover.
Which brings us to my personal favourite, and one of the more bizarre terms I've discovered: a reliant of robins! Surely this is a pun, connected to the infamous three-wheeled Reliant Robin of Only Fools and Horses fame, but it could just as easily be argued that robins are one of the most reliable birds to see every day, in almost any habitat. Indeed they are likely to feature in most counts during the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of this month.
I'd love to hear from you if you know of any other collective nouns for robins, or if there are any species that you'd really like us to feature in this series (assuming I can find their collective noun). Finally I hope you enjoy this series. Most species have far fewer collective nouns, so many of the blogs will be much shorter than this introductory one.
I can't think of any other collective nouns for robins, but I am with you on 'reliant'.
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