How you can help our garden bird favourite, the robin
MOST readers would probably name the robin in their top-five garden birds, which is not really surprising when one considers that, there are an estimated 5.9 million pairs of robins breeding in the UK, and not only that, they are little beauties. Robin Stuff: 1. The oldest recorded robin in the UK was eight years and four months when it died; it spent its whole life in and around Blackpool. A German robin holds the European record at 13 years and three months. 2. The robin is Britain’s national bird and was officially declared so in December 1960 in The Times newspaper. 3. The Anglo-Saxon name for the robin was Ruddock, and by the Middle Ages ‘Redbreast’ was used. In the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries the pet name ‘Robin Redbreast’ came into use. The use of the plain name of robin is fairly recent, gaining official acceptance by the British Ornithologists’ Union in 1952. 4. Why do robins sit on garden spades? The answer is simple. The robin’s preferred feeding technique is to sit on a low perch and survey an area, and then fly down to take any prey it sees. The garden spade is an ideal perch. As the gardener turns over the soil he or she exposes food such as earthworms, leatherjackets and other grubs. 5. The long distance record for a robin was of a bird ringed on Fair Isle, Shetland and re-trapped in Southern Spain, flying a total distance of 2,600km. 6. How did the robin become a symbol of Christmas? A robin first appeared on a Christmas card in the 1860s, this bird was depicted delivering an envelope. The postmen at the time wore a red tunic and were nicknamed redbreasts, hence the robin on the card. 7. Robins have been recorded building nests in lots of odd places, these include, kettles, teapots and gardeners’ coat pockets (not while being worn). One strange bird nested in the engine of a Second World War aeroplane; apparently the engine kept the eggs warm while the plane was in the air. Perhaps one of the oddest nest sites was one recorded in 1820. Two criminals were hung for mail robbery and their bodies left to hang in chains from 1769 to 1820. When they were taken down, a robin’s nest was found in the skull of one of them. 8. When it is nesting, the robin can build a very substantial structure in a very short period of time. The fastest on record was a nest in Basingstoke. Between breakfast and lunchtime, an almost complete nest had been built in a gardener’s coat pocket that had been hung up in the tool shed. 9. As the Christmas bird par excellence it seems appropriate to record the robin which managed to imbibe too much of the Christmas spirit. Some 70 years ago Margaret Holden wrote of the household robin which, having eaten its share of the plum pudding and brandy sauce, fell off the chair back on which it was resting. Left in a safe place to sleep off the effects, it never touched another drop.
A robin is not just for Christmas, here are five things you can do for your robins in 2019. 1. Put up a nest box, robins nest in openfronted-type nest boxes. 2. Plant a berry-producing shrub; Robins will feed on berries during the winter months. 3. Provide cover in your garden. A garden with shrubs and small bushes will provide a safe haven for breeding Robins. 4. Feed your Robins, mealworms, peanut granules and pinhead oats are favourites. 5. Provide a regular supply of clean water and wash your birdbath frequently.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop