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At a glance

The European robin is one of our most familiar birds, commonly known as the gardener’s friend due to its propensity to accompany gardeners as they dig the ground. Despite its friendly nature it can be aggressive towards other birds, and is one of the few species to sing throughout the winter to defend its territory.

Key facts

Scientific name: Erithacus rubecula
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding birds: 6,700,000 pairs

Conservation status: Green
Length: Length: 12 – 13 cm
Wingspan: Wingspan: 20 cm
Weight: Weight: 16 – 22 g
Typical lifespan: 2 years

What do robins look like?

Robins have pale brown upperparts, wings, and tail. On the wing there is a fine buff wingbar, which is sometimes indistinct. The underparts are pale brown to white with pale reddish-brown flanks, and the breast and throat are bright orange with a grey border.

On the head, the nape and crown are pale brown and the face is bright orange. The bill is black, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs and feet are pinkish-brown. Male and female robins look virtually identical.

Juvenile robins are brown with lighter brown mottling. The underparts are paler with beige and brown speckles. They do not have the orange breast until after the first moult at approximately two months.

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How do robins breed?

Robins are one of the earliest birds to nest with breeding starting in late March, although during mild winters robins have been known to breed as early as January. They are monogamous and produce 2 or 3 broods a season. They nest in hedgerows, woodland, parks, and gardens in areas with lots of shelter and easy access, and are famous for nesting in all sorts of odd locations including post boxes, flower pots, hanging baskets, old boots, and even coat pockets, but will usually use a cavity or crevice in a wall or a stump.

The nest is a large-cup shaped structure made from sticks, grass, moss and dead leaves, lined with finer grasses, rootlets, hair and feathers. Male robins help gather materials and the females do the majority of the building work.

Robins lay 4-6 smooth, pale buff, cream, or white eggs with reddish speckles which are incubated for 13-16 days by the female alone. She is fed by the male but will also regularly leave the nest for feeding. The female broods the chicks for about a week after hatching and they fledge at 14 days. They reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

What do robins eat?

Robins have a varied diet and eat spiders, beetles and other small insects, worms, berries, soft fruits and seeds. Robins will also eat most kitchen scraps such as cakes, biscuits and cheese as well as sunflower hearts and mealworms from bird tables and feeders.


Where can I see robins?

Robins live across the UK and can be seen in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens.

What do robins sound like?

Eddy Scheinpflug/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Robins can often be heard singing during the night which leads to them being confused with nightingales.

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5 Responses

  1. Are you sure about a robin only living 2 years? I have had one come and visit me for many years. He arrives every morning about the same time to be fed and I have got him feeding out of my hand. He will eat oats and raisins and is always at the kitchen door waiting for me.

    1. That’s interesting. I think many stats on life span – including for human populations – are very misleading, because the figures that are usually cited are for the average life span. But in reality, this is not what you think as it it is more about survival length – whether the individual dies from predators or cold or disease – and does not at all represent the natural life span. Most bird species (and humans in the recent past) have high mortality rates among the young, for various reasons such as predation of chicks. But once they make it through their first winter, their actual natural life span can be many years … as you are happily discovering !

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