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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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Adorable Christmas Birds – Robin Mania!

robin-home-xmas-waitrose

Have you seen the Waitrose Christmas advert? It features a totally adorable robin who flies home for Christmas. Watch it here:

It also promotes Waitrose’s hashtag #HomeForChristmas. The blurb says: “A courageous robin undertakes an epic journey home to Britain, where a young girl eagerly awaits his annual return #HomeForChristmas”

Well, depsite the fact that it is an advert, the filming is excellent and watching a robin flying through thick and thin is hartwarming. An ideal 2 minute distraction!

 

robin-home-xmas-waitrose
robin-home-xmas-waitrose

Have you got a birdfeeder ready for Xmas birds? Check out the best options for you here – Garden BirdLife’s Complete Guide

 

Michael Morpurgo’s short story

The Waitrose Christmas advertb seems to be based loosly on Michael Morpurgo’s short story which you can hear him read above. As well as some delieghtful animations.

And if all these stories about coming home for Christmas are inspiring you to cook for family and friends, then have a look at these excellent Robin Cupcakes, again by Waitrose, who seem to have the monopoly on Robin themed items this year, or perhaps just some clever marketing to support their seasonal adverts. None the less, the recipe looks great, I havent had time to try it myself, do post a comment if you have had success making these cakes!

Chocolate Robin Cupcakes

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Perfect Christmas Gifts for Bird Lovers 2016

christmas gifts for bird lovers

 

#1 Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to British Birds

‘When herons are spooked they have a habit of vomiting as a defence. Half-digested pieces of eel and water vole skull on your head is not a good look. Just so you know.’ Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to British Birds

Anyone who is familiar with Bill Bailey’s zany humour will appreciate this book and anyone who has never seen or heard him, will be laughing by the first page.

One of Britain’s greatest comedians, Bailey is also somewhat of a bird specialist and brings his comedic talent to his acute observations of our feathered friends.

Full of sketches, jottings and illustrations by this multi-talented man, this is exactly the kind of Christmas gift that’ll lull the recipient into an absorbed silence, punctuated by abrupt laughter.

 

Perfect for: Family members who love to read and laugh.

 

#2 Letter Box Bird Nest

This utterly charming letter box is the perfect home for your robins or bluetits come spring. Nest boxes make excellent Christmas gifts as the recipient has time to put it up in the garden or under an eave before the birds start nest building in early Spring.

Perfect for: Anybody with a garden or fence

#3 Beautiful Bird Print Scarf

Beautiful and elegant, this is the perfect scarf for a woman keen on birds. Delicately printed with birds and branches, this scarf is a light mint green with pink and orange.

Scarves are great Christmas gifts for hard-to-buy relatives and, because they’re very affordable, even make pretty stocking fillers!

Perfect for: Mums, Aunts and in-laws!

#4 Fulton Lulu Guinness Birdcage Umbrella

If this isn’t the most amazing umbrella we’ve seen this year then we don’t know what is!

With transparent PVC, this umbrella keeps the rain and wind off while covering head and shoulders. Designed by the wonderful Lulu Guinness, this is a stylish umbrella for a stylish woman and would be a Christmas present to remember (and probably use quickly!).

Length when closed: 94cm

Span when open: 89cm

Perfect for: Mums, sisters and wives.

#5 Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars

Widely regarded as some of the best binoculars for birdwatching and recommended by the prestigious Audubon Society, this is a gift for that special person who can’t get enough of birds.

Easy to use, small to fit in pockets and excellent for all ages, these Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars rule the birdwatching world.

  • Fantastic quality lenses
  • Excellent clarity
  • Highly durable
  • Suitable for everyone
  • Easy to fit into a pocket while out walking
  • Very affordable for such great binoculars

Perfect for: Amblers, walkers, garden bird watchers, woodland birdwatchers, grandads who watch the birds from their conservatory!

 

#6 Sony RX100 Digital Camera

Know someone who loves taking pictures of birds but just doesn’t have a good camera?

Surprisingly, you don’t need a £1000 camera to get crisp and wonderful photographs of birds, you just need a good one. And that’s what this is.

  • Super compact. Easy to take on walks.
  • Lightweight. Managable for the young and old and won’t weigh your coat pocket down.
  • Large, 1 inch sensor
  • F1.8
  • 3.6 optical zoom for getting those birds on the feeder.
  • Pro manual controls – great for those who love photography
  • 20.2 megapixels. Take incredible crops from your photographs and still get sharpness and focus.

This is a fantastic offering from Sony and is easy to use for the everyday bird lover. However, it’s also great for those who know a lot about cameras and want more control, as the manual controls can be used to change every aspect.

Super small for such a capable camera – we love this little Sony and we’re sure it’ll go down a storm at Christmas!

For the premium version of this camera which includes WiFi capability –have a look here.

 

#7 Wild Bird Food Starter Kit

A great present for anyone with a garden, this wild bird food starter kit will enable them to be fully set-up straight away.

Many garden birds forage over winter, most notably the robin who graces our Christmas cards each year! It’s very difficult for these birds to find enough food though, and this starter kit means the recipient can set everything up outside on Christmas day and watch the birds arrive within hours!

Hungry winter birds are, after all, always on the look out for nibbles!

Bring someone the winter joy of a garden full of birds with this fantastic value wild bird starter kit.

It comes with:

  • Three bird feeders – suitable for monkey nuts, bird seed and fat balls.
  • 2.5kg of varied bird food to appeal to all garden birds.
  • 4 fat balls – essential for hungry birds in the cold.
  • 1 suet cake – delicious and nutritious
  • 1 tub of mealworms that’ll be snapped up straighaway
  • half a coconut filled with suet.

Perfect for: Bird lovers with patios, small gardens or big gardens who’d love to share their winter with garden birds. Also great for kids to get involved with bringing nature to their gardens and learning about birds.

 

#8 A Charm of Goldfinches

New for Christmas 2016, this is another stunning book for the talented ornithologist and illustrator, Matt Sewell.

Not exclusively about birds, this beautiful hardback book is fully illustrated in watercolour and is about collective nouns; a charm of goldfinches, a school of dolphins and an ascension of larks for example.

Sewell has a good collection of books now, many about birds but this is a real talking point with its amusing collective nouns and the phenomenal illustrations with his usual humour.

Perfect for: Nature, bird and humour lovers. Actually, if we’re being honest, this is perfect for anyone.

Publication details:

  • Published 16 October 2016
  • Published by Ebury
  • 144 pages
  • Size: 19.8 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm making it a great coffee table book that’s not too large

#9 The Living Bird

For anyone who loves second-to-none photography, birds and coffee table books, this is going to brighten their Christmas no end. Published last year, The Living Bird contains a remarkable 250 photographs.

Created to celebrate 100 years of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this absorbing book contains many essays by well-known and award-winning authors such as Barbara Kingsolver, Jared Diamond and others.

A 200 page love letter to birds of all kinds, this book will be read out-loud, passed around and returned to time and time again.

Perfect for: Any bird lover who likes to read about interesting facts and study stunning photographer.

 

#10 Large Owl Kite

One of the coolest kites out there, this large owl kite is a great present for a child who likes birds. Easy to fly and very well built, this kite will soar in a breezy day.

Key features:

  • Lightweight fibreglass frame
  • Nylon material
  • Very easy to assemble
  • Complete with lines and handle
  • 170cm wide

Very responsive and only requiring a wind range of 5-15mph, it’s perfect for a day out in the park or moorland and you don’t even need to wait for strong wind.

Perfect for: Children over 8 years old. Encourage them to get outside and play with nature!

 

Thanks for reading Garden Birdlife’s Christmas Gift Guide 2016!

Please feel free to share with any bird lovers you know or those trying to buy for them! If you’ve got any tips or additions you’d like us to know about, just get in touch and we’d love to hear from you!

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The Genius of Birds – Book of the Week Seven

Genius of Birds

Why Birds really are Genius

This week’s bird book is an international offering and includes birds from around the globe. Jennifer Ackerman takes you on a non-stop journey into the incredible behaviour of birds from many countries.

 Jawdroppingly intelligent, birds can memorise thousands of songs, hide tens of thousands of seeds (in different places!) and even use tools to get the things they want. Ackerman shines a torch of the most remarkable avian behaviours and you cannot fail to be amazed.

We may think that all birds do is look for food and sing in the trees but, in fact, the social structures an interactions are far more advanced than many people realise, says Ackerman.

In fact, birds:

  • eavesdrop
  • Give gifts
  •  Tease
  • Console
  •  and all sorts of other behaviour!

You’ll soon discover that you’ve more in common with your garden birds than you’d ever imagined!

With illustrations, Ackerman brings to life the science and studies into these birds through anecdotes and vivid writing. You’ll be looking at all birds differently after you’ve read this; we are!

Piping Plover and its Chick

Everyone with an interest for birds or just nature writing in general will find this a truly fascinating read. For centuries people have believed that birds were of limited intelligence but Ackerman reveals that they are, undoubtably, amazingly clever and inventive.

Read an Excerpt here on The Literary Hub!

If you want to know more about Jennifer Ackerman and about her process of writing this absorbing book, you can read a fantastic interview with her in The Scientific American here. 

The Genius of Birds is published by Penguin and came out in 2016. It would make an excellent Christmas gift for a curious mind who’s fascinated by birds. We love this book and hope you do too!

For even more information, you can listen to an interview with Ackerman on NPR here!

Check out this wonderful book here.

 

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Bird Book of the Week – WEEK SIX

Matt Sewell Our Woodland Birds

Our Woodland Birds by Sewell, Matt (2014) Hardcover

Week One of our Bird Book of the Week series as also a Matt Sewell book and this time we’re revisiting his phenomenal work with Our Woodland Birds.

This book is filled with Sewell’s beautiful watercolour illustrations of British woodland birds. We’ve included it because many people live in rural Britain and near woodlands where these birds are likely to either visit your garden or be seen on local walks.

Each double page spread has a detailed and endearing illustration of a bird with the whisical yet accurate description across the page.

No one could possible fail to fall in love with this exquisite book!

Sewell specialises in hilarious descriptions of the birds he loves. It’s clear that each is born out of long and in-depth study of our local birds.

Each bird is easy to recognise despite its watercolour rendering and the descriptions will make you revisit the book time and time again.

Birds inside include:

  • Goshawk
  • Nuthatch
  • Moorhen
  • Woodcock
  • Woodlark
  • Tree Pipit
  • Waxwing
  • Fieldfare
  • Black Redstart
  • Tawny Owl
  • and even the ring-necked parakeet!

Published by Ebury and available as a hardcover (we recommend this one because it’s a book that should be admired in hard copy) and as an eBook. Its dimensions are 14.3 x 1.5 x 19.2 cm so it’s not an outsized book and fits neatly in the bookshelf.

A perfect gift or coffee table book, this is a must-have for anyone living near woodland.

Click HERE to buy from Amazon

and have it in front of you in no time at all!

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SEPTEMBER BIRDS – Nest Boxes and Berries

nesting box

September – A Natural Harvest

September is one of the best months for birds to eat out in fields and hedgerows. The harvest season brings wild fruits, berries and seeds a plenty and many birds will leave gardens and feast in more rural settings.

While this might make your garden feel a little devoid of birds like in August, this is a great time to do some maintenance.

Some species of garden bird have multiple broods and may use nesting boxes throughout spring and summer. By September though, birds will have flown the nest and be busy eating everything up for the coming winter. That makes September the perfect time to clean out nesting boxes!

Cleaning out Nesting Boxes

Watch the nesting box beforehand just to ensure there are no birds still using it (unlikely in September) and then empty the old nest out from inside. You can clean the box using hot water and washing liquid, and make sure it’s completely dry before putting it back up again.

When cleaning out nesting boxes, don’t use insecticide or flea powder, even if you find these creatures inside. Toxins like these can stay in the wood and harm future birds using the nest.

nesting box
Nesting box

When you empty the old nest, you may find unhatched eggs. This is normal as most birds lay more eggs to ensure a good brood but it’s common for one or two not to hatch. As the nest is old, you can throw the unhatched egg(s) away on the compost heap.

Cleaning out the nesting boxes limits the risk of insects and bacteria gaining a foothold and will appeal to birds looking for roosting or nesting options later. Remember that some birds, like wrens, roost in nesting boxes during cold winters, so cleaning the boxes in September and putting them back up again gives these little birds ample to time to find a roosting place.

If you like, once the washed box is totally dry, you can put a handful of fresh wood shavings or hay into the nesting box to increase the chances of dormice or birds roosting there over winter. Don’t use straw or any wood shavings with paint or treatments on them.

Fruit picking

Autumn is a fantastic time for fruit picking and September is one of the best months for making jam and making wines and ciders from fruit. If you go hedgerow picking for blackberries and other delicious berries, remember to get an extra handful for those birds who are still hopping about in your garden!

waxwing berry september
Waxwing

Last but not least

September is a good time to buy new bird nest boxes and get a bird bath for you’ve garden. Because many birds are temporarily away in rural areas enjoying a harvest feast, you can put up boxes and new baths or feeders in time for them to come back and get used to them being there.

New nest boxes especially are great to put up in winter as birds not only like to roost in them, but as they nest hunt from February, this gives them lots of time to trust the box and the area it’s in.

If you have a large garden, this 4 pack of small garden bird nesting boxes is a fantastic way to start. 

If you want to attract sparrows to your garden (they’re numbers are falling so it’s important to help them out) then this sparrow-specific box is ideal.

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Bird Book of the Week – WEEK FIVE

Secret Lives of Garden Birds

The Secret Lives of Garden Birds by Dominic Couzens

Another fantastic garden bird book from the RSPB, The Secret Lives of Garden Birds is a wonderfully and captivating look at why your birds are doing what they do.

Our gardens are full of birds behaving in strange ways, from sitting atop ants’ nests to dancing wildly around the lawn with their wings spread. Just what are they up to? Dominic Couzens reveals just what these cheek fellows get up to behind the scenes as well as those behaviours we see out in the open.

Month by Month

Taking the reader through the year month by month, Couzens gives an in-depth look at the social stratas, mating habits, territorial disputes and hilarious dramas of our garden birds. Turn off the soap opera, grab a chair by the conservatory windows and open up to the first chapter; you’ll be hooked!

Full of illustrations, photographs and easy to read yet detailed text, this book will have you laughing out loud and going ‘ahhh, so that’s what they’re doing!’ Suitable for anyone with an interest in garden birds, this is exactly the type of book you’ll be plucking off the shelf every other day to look at.

Get to know exactly what your community of garden birds is really doing with the fantastic The Secret Lives of Garden Birds.

 

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Bird Book of the Week – WEEK FOUR

my first bird book

My First Book of Garden Birds (RSPB) – by Sarah Whittley and Mike Unwin

A Picture Book

We love garden birds and presumably you do to. There’s simply nothing more satisfying to know that you’ve got a healthy community of birds enjoying and feeding from your garden. Who needs approving neighbours when the proof is in the ten birds on your feeders each day?

But us adults aren’t the only ones to love garden birds. In fact, these are often the first birds (that aren’t pigeons) that children see. Watching these cheeky little creatures hop about the garden and search for food is a fantastic way for kids of all ages to begin to understand the natural world.

This picture book from the RSPB is an excellent guide for children aged 2 to 7. With its beautifully illustrated pictures and guessing theme, young children will soon be shouting ‘Robin!’ when they see that little red-breasted chap on the fence.

This is a great book for very young children as they get to look at the pictures and then guess what the bird is. For slightly older children, not only will they enjoy learning what the most common birds are but it could even spark a real interest in birdwatching and the outside world. And let’s face it, anything that gets kids outside must be good!

Check out this wonderful book from the RSPB and ignite a love of nature within the children in your life.

 

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Bird Book of the Week – Week Three

birdsong book

Birdsong: 150 British and Irish birds and their amazing sounds

birdsong book

 

This week we’re looking at Birdsong, a genuinely incredible bird book that not only gives you in depth information about all sorts of birds, it plays their songs too!

With 150 different birds and their calls and songs, this musical hardback book is complete with detailed photographs. Including popular birds like robins, wrens and blue tits, this book also features birds like cuckoos, osprey and redwings.

Very easy to use and select songs, each page has a three digit code which you can type in to the buttons at the side in order to hear the bird’s song! Running of AAA batteries, this book can be used for years.

Each bird has a double page spread, with detailed text on one page and a beautiful colour photograph on the other. High quality and a solid hardback, this is a gift for adults, children and even yourself.

The perfect coffee table book for anyone who appreciates birds, this amazing soundbook is an absolute must have.

Get your copy now at a great price from Amazon.

 

 

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Bird Book of the Week – WEEK TWO

RSPB Pocket Bird Guide

Welcome back to the Bird Book of the Week feature! We hope you enjoyed last week’s look at Matt Sewell’s fantastic and heartwarming watercolour book Our Garden Birds. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.

THIS WEEK

RSPB Pocket Guide to British Birds 2nd Edition – by Simon Harrap

Compact and detailed, this pocket bird identification guide is ideal for carrying with you on walks and hikes. With 215 featured birds, this guide covers all the most common birds you’re likely to see, including those that live mostly in gardens.

Fully illustrated, each picture is very detailed and includes not just adult plumage but often juvenile as well and seasonal feather changes. A particularly useful feature is the information about which other birds a bird is liable to be mistaken for.

Each bird also has a distribution map, showing you where the species can be found as well as detailed information on breeding, eating habits, typical behaviour, migration and conservation. You can see what the bird looks like in flight as well as the size of the birds, both very useful for identifying tricky species.

As you would expect from an RSPB product, this is very easy to use, well laid out and written very clearly. As a pocket book it’s very indispensable and fits easily into a coat pocket or the glovebox of your car.

So if you’ve been scratching your head over that little brown mottled fellow exploring your bird table, or that long-tailed ball of feathers clinging to your bird feeder, now’s the time to get yourself the RSPB’s pocket guide book. It’s cheap, it’s detailed, and it’ll contain most of your feathered friends!