Our guide to robins: where to see, top facts and how to attract robins to your garden

The robin redbreast is commonly associated with the festive season and is a well-recognised garden bird in Britain. Our expert guide on robins, with top facts on the species and how to attract robins to your garden in winter

22nd November 2017
Robin on a branch

Where to see robins

Unlike some British bird species which migrate annually, it is possible to see robins all year round. In the UK robins can be seen in parks, woodland, hedgerows and if you're lucky your garden. 

Top robin facts

1. Both sexes of robins have red breasts and both puff out their chests as a sign of aggression. In breeding season, males can be particularly ferocious – attacking each other bloodily and even, very occasionally, killing a rival.

Two robins about to fight
Robins are notoriously territorial - two redbreasts square up for a fight/Credit: Getty

2. The robin became Britain’s bird of Christmas largely because Victorian postmen, who wore red tunic, were known as robin redbreasts. Robins began to appear on Christmas cards and other festive missives as a symbol of the red breasted messenger.

Traditional Christmas card with robin
The robin became Britain’s bird of Christmas largely because Victorian postmen/Credit: Getty

3. The robin is one of our few bird species to sing throughout winter. Both sexes sing and this is thought to be a way of maintaining territories ready for the breeding season. 

Singing robin
Even the winter months brings out the chorister in the robin/Credit: Getty

4, Robin eggs are pale but heavily freckled with rust as if exposed to damp.

5. Robins nest in banks or tree crevices but often choose strange sites in gardens and houses, including inside letter boxes and car wheel arches.

6. The robin was voted Britain’s national bird in 2015 but this was first decided in 1961 when the International Council for Bird Preservation were set the task of choosing Britain’s national bird. Instead of opening the debate up to public vote as in 2015, the decision was made after a long correspondence in The Times newspaper.

Robin sat on garden spade
A hopeful robin hunting for garden worms/Credit: Getty

7. In Europe, the robin is a more timid bird than in Britain, where it regularly followers gardeners (especially when they’re digging) in the hope they might turn up a tasty worm. Back in continental Europe, the robin has been observed following wild boar, which also dig the soil in search of tubers and roots. No doubt, Forest of Dean robins are doing the same with the growing population of wild boar there.

How to attract robins to your garden

Naturalist Stephen Moss shares his top tips on how to attract robins to your garden

Robins are fairly broadminded in their choice of food, but like all small birds in winter, obtaining energy is the key. So put out a range of high-value seeds (kibbled sunflower hearts are ideal), scattered on a bird table or in a bird feeder.

Robin on a bird feeder
Birds need a mixture of fat and seeds for energy in the cold winter months/Credit: Getty

Also put out balls of fat or ‘bird cake’ – a rich mixture of fat and seeds. Mealworms are a real treat – place them in a smooth-sided bowl so that they can’t escape.

Winter is a good time to put up nestboxes: robins need open-fronted ones that are hidden away behind foliage or climbing plants so that they don’t attract the attention of cats.

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