Robins thriving - despite the cold

THEY are officially Britain's national bird, and are guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest garden during the coldest, longest winter.

Paul Geater

THEY are officially Britain's national bird, and are guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest garden during the coldest, longest winter.

But behind the attractive Christmas Card image of the robin redbreast, there's a vicious little bird lurking - and despite the cold weather it has been doing very well over the last few months.

Robins are a bird you can see throughout the year and during the winter months they are one of the most attractive visitors to the garden.

They are also one of the least timid British birds - they don't fly away at the first sight of a human and the clich�d picture of a robin perching on a garden fork while the gardener does something else a few feet away is not an unusual occurrence.

Robins are a breed of bird you can find anywhere in Britain throughout the year - but it is in the winter when there are fewer other garden birds to be seen that they really stand out.

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Although they can be seen throughout the year, it may not be the same bird occupying your garden!

The robins that live in Suffolk during the winter may fly to Scotland or Scandinavia during the summer, to be replaced here by birds which have spent the winter in France or even Spain.

Ian Barthorpe, from the RSPB at Minsmere, said: “Robins are always much more visible in the winter because they are one of the few birds that protect their territories throughout the year.

“So both the males and females sing throughout the winter - and in that they are unusual in the bird world.”

The population of robins has remained constant for many years - and although robins have become more obvious this year, their numbers are probably no greater than in previous years.

“Many do migrate and the numbers are greater during the winter than the summer, but they are common throughout the year,” said Mr Barthorpe.

Robins guard their territories jealously and are very aggressive to other members of their own species.

“When they make a lot of noise and fuss generally that is another reason why they are such a popular visitor to gardens - they are very easy to see,” said Mr Barthorpe.

Robin facts:

Robins are a member of the thrush family and are also related to stonechats and whinchats.

There are an estimated six million breeding territories for robins in the UK - but during the winter the numbers increase.

In a nationwide poll 40 years ago, the robin was chosen as Britain's national bird.

The bird's distant cousin, the American Robin, is much larger - but has only been recorded in the UK 20 times, most recently in 2006.

How to help robins:

Their favourite food is insects and worms, but during the winter they will eat most food.

They particularly like sunflower hearts and mealworms - but will pick at kitchen scraps on a bird table.

When it's frosty birds are very grateful of a bowl of water to drink from when ponds and puddles are frozen over.

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