Winter Warrior

Each year I get a winter visitor to my garden. A brave warrior who is prepared to defend their territory against all comers, big or small. Considered the UK’s favourite bird – with its bright red breast it is familiar throughout the year and especially at Christmas! Males and females look identical and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders.

Winter Warrior

Well known to British and Irish gardeners, the robin is relatively unafraid of people and likes to come close when anyone is digging the soil, in order to look out for earthworms and other food freshly turned up. Indeed, the robin is considered to be a gardener’s friend and for various folklore reasons the robin would never be harmed. In autumn and winter, robins will supplement their usual diet of terrestrial invertebrates, such as spiders, worms and insects, with berries and fruit. They will also eat seed mixtures placed on bird-tables.

Male Robins are noted for their highly aggressive territorial behaviour. They will attack other males that stray into their territories, and have been observed attacking other small birds without apparent provocation. Such attacks sometimes lead to fatalities, accounting for up to 10% of adult Robindeaths in some areas.

Because of high mortality in the first year of life, a Robin has an average life expectancy of 1.1 years; however, once past its first year it can expect to live longer and one Robin has been recorded as reaching 12 years of age. A spell of very low temperatures in winter may also result in significant mortality

Winter Warrior Hiding

The robin features prominently in British folklore, and that of north-western France, but much less so in other parts of Europe. It was held to be a storm-cloud bird and sacred to Thor, the god of thunder, in Norse mythology. Robins also feature in the traditional children’s tale, Babes in the Wood; the birds cover the dead bodies of the children. More recently, the robin has become strongly associated with Christmas, taking a starring role on many Christmas cards since the mid 19th century. The Robin has also appeared on many Christmas postage stamps. The association with Christmas probably arises from the fact that postmen in Victorian Britainwore red uniforms and were nicknamed “Robin”; the Robin featured on the Christmas card is an emblem of the postman delivering the card.

In the 1960s, in a vote publicised by The Times newspaper, the Robin was adopted as the unofficial national bird of the UK. The Robin was then used as a symbol of a Bird Protection Society.


7 thoughts on “Winter Warrior

  1. I’ve always loved the British robin. He’s much smaller and daintier than his North American cousin. For me, the Robin is the first sign of spring. They return in early to late March. Depending on Alberta weather, some get caught out a bit early. This little chap is sporting a frosted beak and eyelashes. – because he’s puffed up against the cold, it’s hard to see his elongated shape. They’re territorial here and often build nests near doors of houses – swooping down as the owners return. – Suzan –


  2. These are such lovely crisp images of the UK’s favourite bird. I really appreciated the natural history and historical information you shared, as I’m a visitor who comes to both see and read and I find that many photo-bloggers are neglectful in this regard.

    English Robins are a bird I have never viewed personally, as I have never ventured off the North American continent. They appear so delicate when compared to our robust north American Robins. However, they sound just as feisty as the warriors we have here. This past spring I watched a pair of courageous Robins harass a juvenile Bald-Headed Eagle and successfully drive him or her off. This winter I shall see Robins searching for food in the mantle of winter’s snow. Then is when I will recall your images and words about their cousins in the UK.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I have always tried to give some history and an insight into why I take a photograph. I have been watching this Robin today, although winter hasn’t really set in yet, he/she has been guarding the food table, so much so, that I’ve had to put extra feeders at the bottom of the garden for other birds. LR forecast for December is for a really cold spell, we don’t get much snow here, too near the coast, but when it gets really cold, field birds invade the garden. I might have to put more feeders out.


  3. Too bad you never credited Wikipedia for the text you lifted from that site; after all, I’m sure you’d have been pretty mad if somebody had used your pictures without crediting you!


    1. You probably thought I would not approve this comment Megan but good or bad every comment gets published, unless they are of a political, religious or sexual nature. On reflection you are right I should credit Wikipedia for information I use and will do so in the future, if and when I use it.

      As to my photographs, I no longer care if I am credited or not. A long time ago I decided to give all of my photographs a Creative Commons License and although I ask for attribution I do not chase anyone who does not. I don’t even check to see if my photographs are used elsewhere.


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