Erithacus rubecula – Robin, belonging to the family Muscicapidae and a subfamily known as the ‘Chats’. Distinctive and no need for introductions with this species.
A small bird, 12.5-14cm long(1). They can look skinny or more plump/rounded, depending on whether they fluff up their plumage. The red bib covering the breast and face is the obvious feature, a characteristic shared by both sexes.
It’s place in the Garden (Visitor/ Rare Resident)
We see these guys all the time, searching for a meal, enjoying worms in particular. During 2022 we probably saw more Robins than ever before, which we partially attribute to the wildflowers we have sown, which break up the grass dominance/cover providing better access to open soil. Also, because we left areas uncut, some of this exposed soil retained more of it’s moisture, favouring soil invertebrates and species like the Robin that feed upon them.
We’ve seen these guys feeding on worms (they love worms), snails and caterpillars. But they will supplement this diet with other inverts such as insects, spiders etc.
Over the years we have had a couple of nesting attempts, both of which failed. The first was in the hazel tree but this was quickly abandoned. The second in an old dilapidated shed we used to have, but we think the local cats got wise to the nest and it to was abandoned, sadly leaving an unattended clutch of eggs.
How to encourage the species to your garden
Robins are found across the country and are very abundant (1) . Whilst we don’t necessarily recommend digging garden soil as this can be damaging to the biological function of the soil, sometimes a little bit of shallow cultivation is needed, especially if you are doing it to increase the botanical diversity of the space you’re working in. As shown below when we were preparing to plant some oxeye daisy plugs we had grown on from seed.
Alternatively you may wish to install bird feeders and just as importantly provide water, a bird bath or small tray regularly filled will do the trick. As will a nice spot next to a pond, like our wetland one which is often visited by thirsty wildlife of all sorts.
These guys are also often seen on the lookout for good nesting materials, such as the little fella below, who clearly in the end decided to look elsewhere…guess we must do better next time!
Of course the true sign of success will be to see a clutch of eggs raised in the garden, and a few suitable nest boxes might be a good investment.
- Svensson, L. Mullarney, K. Zetterstrom, D: Collins Bird Guide. The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe (2nd Edition 2009). HarperCollins Publishers, London