The European Robin, a charming and familiar sight to many, stands a modest 12.5–14.0 cm in length and weighs between 16–22 g, with a wingspan of 20–22 cm. The male and female bear similar plumage, exhibiting an orange breast and face, beautifully lined by a bluish-grey on the sides of the neck and chest. The upperparts are brownish, or with a hint of olive in British birds, while the belly is a clean whitish. The legs and feet are brown, and their keen eyes and bill are a stark black.
Robins are easily recognisable by their distinct orange breast and face, a feature more strongly coloured in the British subspecies. Young robins, however, are spotted brown and white in colouration, with patches of orange gradually appearing as they mature.
Robins are versatile in their choice of abode. They may nest in a wide range of sites, favouring anything that can offer shelter. This includes natural crevices, sheltered banks, pieces of machinery, barbecues, bicycle handlebars, discarded kettles, watering cans, flower pots, and even hats. They also have a fondness for manmade nest boxes with an open front placed in a sheltered position up to 2 metres from the ground.
The European Robin graces much of Eurasia, extending east to Western Siberia, south to Algeria, and as far west as the Azores and Madeira in the Atlantic. It can also be spotted in Iran and the Caucasus range. British and Irish robins are largely resident, while a minority of usually female, migrate to southern Europe during winter. Scandinavian and Russian robins migrate to Britain and western Europe to escape the harsher winters. These migrant robins can be recognised by the greyer tone of the upper parts of their bodies and a duller orange breast.
Robins are noted for their highly aggressive territorial behaviour. Males will fiercely attack other males and competitors that stray into their territories. They have been observed attacking other small birds without apparent provocation and are even known to attack their own reflection. Territorial disputes sometimes lead to fatalities, accounting for up to 10% of adult robin deaths in some areas.
Song & Calls
The robin produces a fluting, warbling song during the breeding season. Both the male and female sing during the winter, when they hold separate territories. The song then sounds more plaintive than the summer version. Some urban robins even opt to sing at night to avoid daytime anthropogenic noise.
Robins lay two or three clutches of five or six eggs throughout the breeding season, commencing in March in Britain and Ireland. The eggs are cream, buff, or white speckled or blotched with a reddish-brown colour, often more heavily so at the larger end. When juvenile birds fly from the nests, their colouration is entirely mottled brown. After two to three months out of the nest, the juvenile bird grows some orange feathers under its chin, and over a similar period this patch gradually extends to complete the adult appearance of an entirely red-orange breast.
Diet and Feeding
Robins supplement their diet of terrestrial invertebrates, such as spiders, worms, and insects, with berries and fruit during autumn and winter. They also appreciate seed mixtures and suet placed on bird-tables. Interestingly, they are drawn to human activities involving the digging of soil, to look out for earthworms and other food freshly turned up.
Due to high mortality in the first year of life, a robin has an average life expectancy of 1.1 years. However, once past its first year, life expectancy increases. The record for a robin's age stands at an impressive 19 years.
The European robin is not currently a species of concern. With a population numbering in the hundreds of millions and a trend of increasing numbers, the International Union for Conservation of Nature evaluates it as of least concern.