I have a regular garden visitor, Christopher, my robin. I am sure it’s the same bird as he is gradually becoming tamer, to the point where he will feed from the palm of my hand.
Very, very occasionally he will bring a friend.
I told my friend of my pair of robins and she said I must have been mistaken as robins are territorial.
This needs investigating…
It seems we are both right. Robins are incredibly territorial against their own kind and will defend their boundaries, often to the death.
But in summer, that same territory is defended by a mated pair.
A robin’s territory
Robins occupy small gardens alone, the size depends on the quality of the habitat and the number of other birds around. They choose their territory based on good shelter and nesting sites. They also look for nearby sources of food and water.
Male and female robins hold separate territories, and it is the female that moves closer to the male when winter feeding becomes difficult.
The boundaries aren’t rigid and change along with the availability of food and shelter.
Why does a robin have a red breast?
Birds often have bright plumage to attract a mate, and most people think that’s why the robin has a red breast. However, it is for a very different reason, it is there solely for defending their territory.
Males instantly recognise another male robin by its colour and will persistently attack it. They are known to attack stuffed toys and red feathers.
This accounts for 10% of adult robin deaths each year; they are killed by their own species.
They are unpredictable, they often live harmoniously alongside other bird species, and at other times they can attack them with zero provocation.
Why does a robin sing so much?
The tuneful, melodious song of the robin obviously helps to attract a mate. But it does more than that, the song helps to defend his territory.
Robins are famed for being the first bird to start the dawn chorus and the last to stop singing at night, long after dusk has passed. This is a warning to other birds that are heard further across the quiet winter skies. He is saying stay away, I made it through the night, and I am still holding this territory strong.
Life-expectancy of the robin
The mated pair will remain together in one stronghold throughout the summer where they will have 2, sometimes 3 clutches.
Once the infants have fledged, the female will return to her own territory, leaving the male alone through the winter months.
Their diet changes from the usual insects and they eat seeds, fruit, and berries. They particularly enjoy fatty snacks such as cheese and bacon rind that provides them with high calorific energy.
Robins defend their territory with their life, very often losing that battle. Of the remaining robins, 75% don’t make it past 1 year and 1 month old.
I genuinely believe that my Christopher is one of the tough robins that defends his territory year upon year and returns to help me dig the veggie patch over.