7-10, see text.
Summer Resident Winter
The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), known simply as a robin in colloquial English, is a species of small insect eating bird found across Europe. It is noted for its bright, orange or red coloured breast, contrasting with its off-white belly and grey and brown wings, leading to being called "robin red-breast". It is famous for its appearance during Winter, and especially Christmas, causing it to stand out from the snow as it hunts for food.
The European robin was one of the many specs originally described by Carl von Linne under the name of Motacilla rubecula. The genus Erithacus was created by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1800, giving the bird its current name of E. rubecula. The distinctive orange breast of both sexes contributed to the European robin's original name of redbreast.
Behaviour and ecology
The robin is diurnal, although has been reported to be active hunting insects on moonlit nights or near artificial light at night. Well known to British and Irish gardeners, it is relatively unafraid of people and likes to come close when anyone is digging the soil, in order to look out for earthworms and other food freshly turned up. Indeed, the robin is considered to be a gardener's friend and for various folklore reasons the robin would never be harmed. In continental Europe on the other hand, robins were hunted and killed as with most other small birds, and are more wary.
Robins may choose a wide variety of sites for building a nest, in fact anything which can offer some shelter, like a depression or hole may be considered. The nest is composed of moss, leaves and grass, with finer grass, hair and feathers for lining. Two or three clutches of five or six eggs are laid throughout the breeding season, which commences in March in Britain and Ireland. The eggs are a cream, buff or white speckled or blotched with reddish-brown colour, often more heavily so at the larger end.
The robin has a fluting, warbling song in the breeding season, when they often sing into the evening, and sometimes into the night, leading some to confuse them with the common nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos). Nocturnal singing in urban robins occurs in places that are noisy during the day, suggesting that they sing at night because it is quieter, and their message can propagate through the environment more clearly. Daytime noise outperformed night-time light pollution as a predictor of nocturnal singing activity in urban robins in Sheffield, England.
The robin features prominently in British folklore, and that of northwestern France, but much less so in other parts of Europe. It was held to be a storm-cloud bird and sacred to Thor, the god of thunder, in Norse mythology. Robins also feature in the traditional children's tale, Babes in the Wood; the birds cover the dead bodies of the children. More recently, the robin has become strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role on many Christmas cards since the mid 19th century.