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European Robin – Garden Bird Identification Guide

Erithacus_rubecula

European robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Above photo: © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0

robin
Robin

The Robin is one of the Nation’s favourite garden birds! It is the 9th most common bird in the UK according to the Birdwatch 2016 survey, but for many people it is the most loved.

Identification

About 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 inch) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. Young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. It is not only common in the UK, but can also be found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south as far as North Africa.

 Erithacus_rubecula
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

What do Robins Eat?

Robins eat worms, small insects and seeds. When their food source becomes scarce in winter they will eat just about anything put out for them on a bird table, especially fatty foods such as bacon rind and cheese. Robins are territorial birds and will aggressively defend their area. They will also return to known food sources, so if you put some seeds out on a bird table or hang a bird feeding station (see more about them here) then Robins will come back almost every day to feed.

Robin from The RSPB on Vimeo.

 

Nesting / Breeding

 

Robins pair up for the breeding season (April to June) only. When a male robin has found a mate, he will strengthen their bond by bringing the female food, such as worms and caterpillars, which she begs for noisily while quivering her wings and can be mistaken by the observer to be the mother feeding her young. Most nests are located on or near the ground in hollows, tree roots, piles of logs and any other situations that provide a fully concealed cavity.

Once the female has laid her eggs, she stays in the nest for up to two weeks, crouching low over them, well concealed with only her brown back visible.  The male brings her food, sometimes as often as three times in an hour.

Both parents take responsibility when feeding and looking after their chicks until they are two weeks old when they can fly and become fully independent, they will then leave the nest. The young hatch after 12-15 days, and become independent after 3 weeks.

Pairs of Robins which raise an brood early in the season are more likely to have a second or third brood in the same year.  The female will sit on the clutch of 5-7 eggs while the male continues to feed and look after the year’s first fledglings.

How to Attract Robins to Your Garden

Robins will eat almost anything, especially in winter. A good quality garden bird seed mix in a squirrel proof bird feeder will have Robins attracted to your garden in no time!

 

 

 

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Long-tailed tit – Garden Bird Identification

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

(Aegithalos caudatus)

Identification

The long-tailed tit or long-tailed bushtit (Aegithalos caudatus) is a common bird found throughout Europe and Asia. Related to several species in Asia, but there is only one species found in the UK and Europe; long-tailed tits are small-bodied, long-tailed birds with short legs and tiny, triangular bills

In all plumages has an extraordinarily long tail (7cm) in comparison to the size of its body

Diet

These attractive birds eat insects throughout the year, especially the eggs and larve of moths and butterflies. The may occasionally east seeds in Autumn and Winter when their main food sources are scarce.

Long-tailed tit
Long-tailed tit

Breeding Habits

Outside the breeding season they form compact flocks of 3 to 30 birds, composed of family parties (parents and offspring) from the previous breeding season, together with any extra adults that helped to raise a brood. These tits nest in trees and often in gorse bushes. If the nest is found by a predator then the pair will attempt to make a new nest. If it is too late in the season then the birds that have lost thier nest will help other breeding pairs, what scientists call “co-operative breeding”. Often the birds they help are related to them, and they will help bring food to the young and defend the group’s territory.

Longtail Tit Bird Song / Call

Outside of the summer breeding season Longtail tits are usually seen in flocks of up to 30 individuals and can be easily heard by their distincitve call. Actually, they have three main calls, a single high pitched ‘pit’, a ‘triple trill’ eez-eez-eez, and a rattling ‘schnuur’. The members in a flock will keep up a continuous chatter while working their way along a hedgerow or through the forest.

Listen here:


 

How to attaract Longtail Tits to Your Garden?

Are you noticing more longtail tits recently? Well, you may be because this species really has bucked the trend of songbird declines, having almost doubled in numbers since the 1980s. Why? As often is the case, a variety of reasons but mainly, long-tailed tits are especially vulnerable to long spells of cold weather, which make it harder for them to find food and keep up their energy levels. The recent mild winters mean more survive into springtime.

As Longtail tits rarely eat seeds and other commercially available birdfood unless they can find nothing else, you dont often see them at garden bird tables. The best way to attract them is to leave a pile of logs in a damp place in your garden. This will naturally attract insects who will lay their eggs here. This is what longtail tits most like to eat!