The Robin (Erithacus rubecula), is probably the best known and best loved of all of the birds who frequent our hedgerows and gardens. This small, little bird loves to sing and is most easily identified by his bright orange or red breast.
Although they can be fiercely territorial, Robins are extremely friendly. They can even be trained and tamed to eat food directly from your hand.
Many myths and legends surround the Robin, and how he became Robin Redbreast. Perhaps this is a big factor as to why he is such a popular and enduring favourite with both young and old alike.
A version of the story is that the Robins breast was burnt red by a fire, which he fanned with his wings to warm the newborn baby Jesus. Another version tells how the Robin plucked a thorn from Christ’s brow as he made his way to the crucifixion, and that the drop of blood that came out, stained the Robins breast red forever.
Robins like to eat a rich and varied, diverse range of food. This can be divided into the kind of food that the Robin can forage for himself in the wild and the kind of food that is suitable for us to provide for him.
As Robin’s are small birds, they tend to live for about two years on average. But there are exceptions and they can live for many years longer, particularly if they have a good and sustainable source of food.
Food in the Wild
Robin’s love a wide variety of food, but their favourite food is undoubtedly insects. They are particularly fond of beetles and also love to find a delicious fat worm.
This is probably a factor in why they are such a popular garden bird. Robin’s tend to turn up when digging and soil turning is going on. Hungry for food and hoping to pick up any tasty tidbits or snacks that are on offer.
Robins are small birds that can survive a winter. But it is important for them to keep up their body fat by foraging for food, particularly in the colder months, as this helps to protect them from hypothermia.
Robins also need a supply of fresh water, and frozen ground, puddles and ponds in the wintertime can also be a danger. As like all small creatures, Robins can dehydrate quickly if they don’t have frequent access to fresh water.
Food that we can feed Robin’s
As mentioned above, Robin’s can eat a diverse and broad variety of different foods. So there are lots of options and choices when it comes to choosing food to leave out for them. However, a Robins favourite food is definitely mealworms, and these can be fed to him either live or dried.
If you are leaving dried mealworms as a snack or food for Robins, a good tip is to soak them in water. This will make them easier to consume and also provide valuable hydration for them.
(In general it is a good practice to place food on a covered bird table or feeding station. As this has the benefit of providing protection for the Robin from larger birds and predators. It also protects the food from the elements and keeps it dry. Wet or soggy food can be a haven for the growth of harmful bacteria. This can be dangerous to birds, particularly smaller species like the Robin.)
Robin’s love to eat nyjer seed, fruit (particularly chopped apple), seeds, raisins, various nuts (crushed peanuts are a favourite) and even cheese (grated mild cheese is best).
Be sure to leave plenty of good quality food out for the Robin. Particularly in the colder months as it will help to keep him toasty over the course of the winter.
Be sure to also leave out fresh water, as access to this is extremely important.
In the past it was traditional to leave bread scraps and crusts as food for birds. While the Robin will love to eat this food, it doesn’t provide the essential nutrients that the Robin needs. It will tend to fill him up so that he doesn’t eat other essentials.
Milk isn’t suitable for birds to drink and can make them sick, so just stick to fresh water.
If you provide some or all of the food recommended above, you’ll have the pleasure of the company of the wonderful little Robin for many years to come.