The European robin (Erithacus rubecula), known simply as the robin or robin redbreast in the British Isles, is a small insectivorous passerine bird that belongs to the chat subfamily of the Old World flycatcher family. About 12.5–14.0 cm (4.9–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upper-parts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.
This chubby little creature is a welcome sight to farmers and gardeners alike as it loves to eat insects, including insect pests. It also delights with its burbling song, which begins at dawn and may even continue into the night. On the other hand, the European robin is rather thuggish to members of its own species and even other birds. It’s no wonder that several soccer and rugby teams are named after it! Read on for more information about this feisty little bird.
European Robin Behaviour
The robin is diurnal, although it has been reported to be active hunting insects on moonlit nights or near artificial light at night. Well known to British and Irish gardeners, it is relatively unafraid of people and drawn to human activities involving the digging of soil, in order to look out for earthworms and other food freshly turned up.
The robin is considered to be a gardener’s friend, and, for various folklore reasons[clarify], the robin would never be harmed. In continental Europe, on the other hand, robins were hunted and killed as with most other small birds, and are more wary. Robins also approach large wild animals, such as wild boar and other animals which disturb the ground, to look for any food that might be brought to the surface.
In autumn and winter, robins will supplement their usual diet of terrestrial invertebrates, such as spiders, worms and insects, with berries and fruit. They will also eat seed mixtures and suet placed on bird-tables.
Robins are usually found playing dead when cached. Actually, playing dead is a common trick employed by birds (and other prey species) to avoid being attacked. If they feel threatened by a predator they will play dead and lay motionless, particularly if they feel that the predator responds to movement.
Amazing European Robin Facts!
- Robins lay eggs from March to the end of July. The female can incubate the eggs of one family while the male feeds the chicks of the other.
- Though the average lifespan of a European robin is a little over a year, at least one lived for 19 years.
- Its song is heard at night in locations with artificial light.
- Some scientists believe they use quantum entanglement to navigate.
- Robins became symbols of Christmas in Britain during the Victorian era.
The European robin is found in Europe, North Africa, Russia, and parts of the Middle East. It lives in habitats such as gardens, backyards, hedgerows, parks, woods, and heathlands.