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How to attract robins to your garden

The red-breasted robin (Erithacus rubecula) has become synonymous with winter in the UK. It has adorned Christmas cards since Victorian times and has become the nation’s favourite bird over the years, brightening up dull, grey days with its flash of orangey-red.

Let’s take a look at these character-filled little birds, their traits and how to attract them to your garden:

Locals and visitors

Robins are very common in the UK, but are joined by some European neighbours in the winter. They are usually set apart from our local birds by their slightly paler breasts. The visitors tend to be less tame and less likely to visit gardens while they are here, so keep an eye out for them in woodland areas. Interestingly, attempts have been made to introduce robins to America, Australia and New Zealand with no success, so they seem to be a European bird.

Nesting

Robins can start courtship in January, but breeding tends to be from March onwards. Robins like little nooks and crannies in vegetation, log piles and hollows close to the ground to nest. They like to be completely concealed and have been known to nest in all sorts of odd places, like old welly boots and hanging baskets. If you’re thinking of providing a nesting box, make sure it’s open fronted, as a robin won’t use a typical small-holed nesting box.

If you think a robin is building a nest, keep your distance, as they will abandon a nest if they think it has been discovered.

Feeding

Robins tend to eat insects and worms. If they become tame enough, you might find your garden robin hanging around when you’re digging, ready to swoop in on what you unearth. Through the winter, you can top them up with some suet balls for a fatty boost, or mealworms as a protein source.

Protecting their space

While robins look sweet, they are fiercely territorial and will defend their patch. In the summer, a mated pair will occupy a territory, but in winter, individuals keep to their own space. The size of their territory will depend on quality of vegetation and food available, but the average back garden will only have one robin in it. Their bright red breast is for scaring off rivals, rather than for courtship, and a robin will attack a fellow member of its species without hesitation.

Listening out

Both sexes sing all year round. From autumn, the robin’s song is a little more melancholic, whereas from spring, it is bold and upbeat. The robin’s song is both to defend its territory and to attract a mate. Robins can be quite active in low light, so can be the first in the garden to get going and last to stop singing. Streetlights and floodlights can trigger singing, so if you hear birdsong in the middle of the night, it could be a robin.

If you provide plenty of nesting spots and food, you should have no trouble encouraging this energetic and bold little songbird to your garden.

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