Wildlife advent calendar: Day 1: Robin

I have decided to start my wildlife advent calendar with a classic, just because whatever time of year I see a robin it always makes me think of Christmas!

Robins are extremely popular birds in the UK and this year they were even voted as Britain’s favourite bird. Despite being a resident in the UK all year round, robins, with their very distinguishable red breasts are still very much associated with Christmas. But why is that, you may ask?

The association mainly came from British postman in the 1800s who used to wear red coats as part of their uniforms. It was due to this that the postmen were nicknamed robin redbreasts and during Christmas time people would eagerly await the gifts and letters that they brought. As they then became linked with this joy experienced around Christmas time, pictures of robins (the bird) delivering letters began appearing on Christmas cards, which represented the postmen. Since then robins are still very much associated with the joy of Christmas time and are still making an appearance on cards and decorations today.

There are also many folk tales about how the robin got its red breast. One of these tales is Mary and the baby Jesus grew cold in the stable where he was born and a plain brown bird flapped its wings next to the fire to keep it alight so that Mary and the infant would remain warm. One of the hot embers from the fire is said to have leapt out, burning the robin’s breast. From then on all of the descendants of the robin had this red breast as a mark to show the great service its kind had done that day.

Robins are extremely territorial birds, in summer/spring time they defend their territories for breeding purposes, but in the winter months they will defend their territories because it acts as their source of food. This is why you can still hear robins singing in the winter. Robins often start their courtship behaviour around mid-winter time.

Populations of robins in the UK are generally doing well, however, particularly cold winters can often decrease numbers.

 

Acknowledgments:

  1. RSPB website
  2. Image taken from Flickr user Jonas Carlberg

 

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