Robins, our Garden Visitor
The robin holds a special place in people’s hearts. This perhaps relates back to the many stories told in Irish Folklore, of the robin often seen as a sign that a loved one is watching over you.
The robin is with many aspects of Irish history including Christianity, where it is suggested that a robin pulled a thorn from Christ’s head as he hung on the cross. A drop of Christ’s blood then fell onto the robin’s breast, turning it red. There are many other stories connected to the robin but whatever you believe or not, one fact remains the robin always brings us a feeling of happiness and peace. If you want to hear more about this popular little bird, then read on…
Did you know robins are very territorial? They use a combination of song and displays of their red breast to establish territories. Males can be particularly aggressive and have been known to attack red socks on washing lines and even their own reflection in mirrors!
The robin we are familiar with in Ireland is known as the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) and Is called Spideog in Irish. This robin is widespread throughout Europe and their population here in Ireland is estimated to be around 4 million! Robins can be easily identified by their red orange-y breast and face, brownish grey body and greyish white underbelly. The female and male robins are basically identical, but males can be slightly larger than females, only by a few grams though! Juveniles lack these bright colours and instead have a speckled golden-brown colour, this helps to keep them safe from predators and even older robins protecting their own territory.
Robins are omnivores. Their diet is really diverse, and includes a mix of insects, seeds, and fruit. Winter can be a challenging time for the robin, imagine having to search for food, look for shelter all whilst its -2 degrees outside! It is important to remember that different foods attract different wild bird species, robins are ground feeding birds so a ground level feeder would be your best bet! Also try to copy the type of foods they eat in the wild, you could prove mealworms, soft fruit, and seeds.
Robins are not particularly fussy when it comes to nesting. They will usually nest within 2 metres from the ground, often found in thick ivy or other such climbing plants. They will even set up home in the ground under fallen twigs and leaf litter! If you are looking to provide a safe nesting space for robins then choose a bird box with a medium size entrance and plenty of cover. The image below is an ideal box for them.
Remember robins are very sensitive, if they find out you have been near the nest, they may abandon it. If you know where one is, please do not disturb it. Although they are not endangered it is important that we continue to monitor them. Do not forget to report your sightings to the National Biodiversity Data Centre at https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording
Written by Mary Moroney
Image Source: https://birdwatchireland.ie/birds/robin/