Thunder bird

In Norse mythology, the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) symbolises the coming of stormy weather. This is as Thor, the god of thunder, was supposedly fond of the colour red, as shown by the robin’s distinct fiery red breast.

This colouring also has connotations in Celtic mythology, where the killing of a robin is said to bring death of loss by a blaze.

In the UK, they are also simply known as Robins, or Robin redbreasts.

European robins are highly recognisable, with their signature bright-red breast. They have a brown back and a white belly, and the orange-red breast which stretches up to its throat and face. Juveniles, on the other hand, are brown all over with mottled golden flecks, and lack the red breast.

E. rubecula can be found all year round across the UK, living in woodlands, hedgerows, parks, and gardens.

Source: RSPB (Robin page)

European robins are roughly sparrow-sized, with a wingspan of 20-22 cm, and a weight of 14-21 g.

E. rubecula are also insectivorous, meaning they mostly consume insects and other invertebrates. They do also eat seeds and fruit, but they love feeding on worms the most. These robins can often be seen in gardens on the lookout for worms as they are being dug up by gardeners.

The breeding season for European robins usually starts in March, however, if there is a mild winter it can begin earlier in January instead. The female robin builds a cup-shape nest consisting of moss, hair, grass, and dead leaves, somewhere close or on the ground. nesting sites can include a hole, sheltered banks, or more human resources, like pieces of machinery, watering cans, or even hats! These robins lay a clutch of 4-6 eggs between mid-April, and mid-August. After around 13 days, the chicks hatch, where they are cared for by both parents. Approximately two weeks later, the chicks fledge, and are ready to fly from the nest.

Despite their small size and adorable looks, E. rubecula are shown to be fiercely territorial, and sing to defend their territory all year round. Disputes are often settled through songs and body language, however, if this fails, it can quickly become physical with fights to the death occurring. They have also been recorded to attack stuffed robins (presumably Christmas decorations) and their own reflection! It has been concluded that the European robin’s red breast is used as a territory defender.

European robins are frequently used on Christmas cards, due to the fact that during the Victorian era, when the sending of Christmas cards began, postmen wore red jackets, which led to them gaining the nickname ‘robins’.

When using the word “Robin” you would have to be careful, as the same term implies for many other bird in other families with similar red or orange breasts. This includes the American robin (Turdus migratorius), some thrushes (Turdidae family), and the Australasian robins (Petroicidae family).