The robin is so closely associated with Christmas and snowy settings that it is easy to think that they remain in Britain throughout the year and battle to survive harsh winters.
For most robins, this is true; but not all of them.
In ‘Do Robins Migrate’ we discover that not all of the birds are happy to stay and have their photographs taken for Christmas cards.
Most robins are sedentary, they stay here year-round, defending their territory to the death.
However, a small proportion, usually females, head south in the search of some winter sun and a more varied diet.
The British robin population is bolstered during winter by migrating birds from overseas. Our climate is warmer than their own and their chances of survival are more favourable.
Robins rarely move more than 5km from their territory, they are nomadic souls that follow a food source. Occasionally males may have a second, wintering territory and make an exception to the rule to visit it.
He maintains both nesting sites, always returning to one from the other.
Female robins that don’t migrate are also very capable of establishing, maintaining, and defending their own winter territory.
The small minority of robins that choose to migrate are usually females. They tend to cross the channel and head for France, southern Spain; some go as far afield as Portugal.
Simultaneously, robins from Scandinavia, Continental Europe, and Russia are settling here for the winter. Although cold, our climate is more bearable than their own, with a much-reduced likelihood of their food sources being buried deep beneath snow and ice.
Visiting robins from western Siberia must think our climate is positively balmy!
Again, migrating robins remain faithful to both territories, returning to the site as spring rolls around.
Sometimes, robins use our shores as a stopover. Those migrating from Scandinavia take a break on England’s east coast, before continuing on their flight path to join British birds on the Costa Del Sol!
How to tell migrant and sedentary robins apart
Robins are extremely territorial, so the chances of ever seeing a sedentary and migrant bird together are virtually zero. It is a shame because the best way of telling them apart is by comparing their colouring, best done at close quarters.
The immigrant bird is generally paler; their redbreast isn’t nearly as bright as our native birds., even the female who isn’t as vivid as the male.
Visiting robins are noticeably less tame. Their habitat is usually woodland, they have little contact with humans, and are unlikely to approach us or feed on our hands.
For such small birds, robins are surprisingly hardy and able to withstand very cold temperatures. As our winters are typically mild in comparison with other country’s, they don’t have to migrate; it is a personal preference.
Never get into an argument about robins and do they migrate?; it’s unwinnable.
Some do, some don’t, and some migrate to Britain and Ireland because it’s warmer!
I hope that’s cleared that up for you…