Years ago I read that European Robins were timid little birds who did their best to avoid humans. This is because they were hunted and killed for years just as most other small birds were in Europe.
Naturally I was surprised during a recent visit to Ireland to find that Robins are very friendly in the way that Black-capped Chickadees are friendly in North America. I found one between two cars and, rather than fly away, it approached me.
A little research tells me that, in Britain, the robin is considered to be the gardener’s friend and, for various folklore reasons, is never to be harmed.
The first Europeans in North America saw a bird with an orange chest and named it the robin after the robins that they were familiar with at home.
The American Robin is a member of the thrush family and would more properly have been named the Orange-breasted Thrush.
The Beatrix Potter books of my youth feature many drawings of robins.
On several other occasions in Ireland, robins came very close as if to inspect me.
While I was sitting on a bench the one in the following photos moved closer and closer.
The robin is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa. They do not migrate except for the most northerly birds.
They are considered to be a member of the Old World flycatcher family.
In Britain , the bird was originally called Robin Redbreast as the colour orange was unknown until the oranges were introduced into Britain in the 16th century.
Their main diet is insects, spiders and worms but they do add fruit and berries in fall and winter. They are frequent visitors to bird feeders in Britain.
The robin is the unofficial national bird of the UK.
The average lifespan of a robin is just over 1 year but one robin has been recorded as living to 19 years of age.
I was shocked with the Robin’s lifespan of 1 year. According to Stanford University, Robin’s have a life of 13 years, Blue Jays have 16 years and Cardinals have a lifespan of 15 years while hawks and ducks can go on for 20 plus years. But according to Lifespan of Birds by Offwell the mortality rate of Robins in the fledgling stage is 72%. So I guess that is why the Robin is short-lived. It does spend a lot of its time hopping around on the ground looking for food more than other birds so it is very vulnerable.
That is interesting about the color orange. Interesting about the treatment of Robins in Ireland. I hope they live longer there.
I too have just come across info on robin’s lifespan – 13 months on average, but longest recorded as 12 years. As you point out, the high young bird mortality brings the average right down. This was quoted in a book I just finished and which I highly recommend – “The Seabird’s Cry” by Adam Nicolson published by William Collins.
Lovely pictures and commentary Miles