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European Robin

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European Robin - Erithacus rubecula.

European Robin - Erithacus rubecula.

Photo © Dan Briški / ShutterStock.

The European robin (Erithacus rebecula) is a small perching bird that can be found throughout many parts of Europe. It has an orange-red breast and face, olive-brown wings and back, a white to light-brown belly. You can sometimes see a blue-grey fringe around the bottom part of the robin's red breast patch. European robins have brown legs and their tail is bluntly square. They have large, black eyes and a small black bill.

European robins have a lovely warm, warble that consists of a melodic rippling of notes. In autumn and winter, some say their song becomes more mournful and melancholy than it is in spring and summer. Their call is a sharp, highly pitched 'twick' or 'tick' that can be repeated in a series of rapid outbursts. This call is used as a warning signal or as a proclamation of their territory. European robins are notoriously territorial and can be quite aggressive to fellow members of their species who are unwelcome within their claimed plot of earth.

Robins are shy birds throughout most of their range but in the British Isles, they have acquired a charming tameness and are frequent, honored guests in back yard gardens, and parks. Their feeding behavior historically involved following foraging animals such as the wild boar as it dug through the soil. The robin would hop down to pick up any insects and grubs that were uncovered by the animals digging. Now, robins have found gardeners to be as productive with their earth-turning as wild boars and robins are known to be not far behind a human digging in the garden.

Robins breed from April through August. Female robins construct a nest in a well-sheltered location such as a hedge or densely vegetated bank. Their nest is cup-shaped and is constructed out of leaves and grass. The female lays 4-6 eggs which require incubation for 13-14 days. After hatching, the young are ready to fledge in two weeks. As many as three broods may be raised in one year. European robins are not endangered or threatened and their populations are increasing in some parts of their range.

Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Turdidae
  • Genus: Erithacus
  • Species: Erithacus rubecula

The Genus Erithacus consists of a group of thrush-like true flycatchers and in addition to the robin, includes species such as the nightingale and the Old World chats. The European robin of the British Isles is considered a subspecies, Erithacus rubecula melophilus, and differs slightly in color (having a more vibrant breast coloration and upper parts more olive-brown than grey-brown in color) from the rest of the population throughout mainland Europe (Erithacus rubecula rubecula).

Where to See:

European robins are widespread throughout Europe. They are year-round residents of many areas of Europe (Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy). In summer, some populations migrate to northern and eastern Europe but in winter, they return to the warmer areas of Europe and North Africa. European robins inhabit open woodlands, hedgerows, heaths, town parks and gardens.

References:

  • Burnie D, Wilson DE. 2001. Animal. London: Dorling Kindersley. 624 p.
  • Fawkes R. 1999. Pygoscelis adeliae, Animal Diversity Web. November 21, 2005.

 

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