How you can help our gar­den bird favourite, the robin

Rochdale Observer - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

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.


●●A Robin

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