Identification

Most gardeners will be familiar with the robin’s plump figure and red breast, which extends to cover the face. They have thin bills, pale undersides and a brown back. Robins are one of the few birds to sing during the winter as well as the summer, which is perhaps why they are associated with Christmas.

They have a liquid, warbling song among other calls, including a sharp tick or a thin seeee. In urban areas you may hear them singing at night, perhaps encouraged by the false dawn of streetlights or opportunistically avoiding competition with the daytime noise of a city.

Size

12.5-14cm (4 ¾-5 1/2in) long.

Distribution

Robins are resident all over the UK, except in the higher hills of Scotland and the Shetland Isles.

Status

Robins suffer from predation, cold winters and disease. However, high reproductive rates more than compensate for their high mortality levels. Robin populations are believed to have increased by about 45 percent since 1970. They are not considered threatened in any way.

Habitat preference

Robins are capable of existing in a wide range of habitats, but ideally look for a mixture of dense vegetation and open areas. Woodland, parks and gardens all provide good habitat, but they can also be found in habitat from open countryside to city centres. There is high competition for the best habitat in which to hold a territory so population densities can vary greatly.

Where to find them in the garden

Robins are highly territorial, and unlike most species these territories are retained throughout the whole year. Therefore it is often beneficial to robins to make their presence known, and they are often easy to hear. Listen for them noisily proclaiming their presence from concealed perches within trees and shrubs. At other times they may be found hopping around on the ground looking for food. They can become quite bold when regularly exposed to human contact so they may be found hovering nearby if food is being consumed outdoors.

Role in the garden

Robins have a varied diet, but mostly they feed on invertebrates, helping to control pest populations. They also eat a lot of fruit and seeds. They are often susceptible to predation providing a good food source for a variety of species such as sparrowhawks, owls and cats.