Nature with Nik Mitchell: The UK’s national bird – the Robin

The Robin Photo Nik Mitchell

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell, from Minster, runs the Wildlife Conservation in Thanet page on facebook:

With Christmas this month what better to write about than the UK’s national bird, the Robin.

If you have ever wondered why robins are associated with Christmas it’s because postmen in Victorian Britain were nicknamed ‘Robins’ because of their red uniforms. So the Robin on the Christmas card came to represent the postman who delivered those cards.

In the winter months Thanet sees higher numbers of Robins because they are often moving south to warmer climates to avoid severe winters.

Photo Nik Mitchell

Robins migrate both day and night (they can average 38 miles per day). Our Robins are joined by migrants from Scandinavia, continental Europe and Russia. But some UK Robins (mostly females), will cross the Channel to spend their winters in warmer climates, in some cases as far south as Spain.

The Robin is one of the few birds in the UK that sings all year round and interestingly both sexes will sing. This is due to the importance of holding winter territories.

Richard Taylor Jones filming Robins for Countryfile Christmas special

Look out for a piece about Robins on BBC’s Countryfile Christmas special this year where a very territorial Robin from Thanet may appear.

With a lot of Thanet being very urban and full of street lighting it can often trigger Robins to sing in the middle of the night, and if roosting Robins are disturbed, they can burst into song even in complete darkness.

The appearance of a Robin is very interesting, male and female robins look identical. Alongside this, if you look very closely at a Robin you might be surprised to notice its breast is actually orange.

The Robin was named before the English language had a word for the colour ‘orange’. Many things that were really orange were called red instead. The colour orange was not named as a colour in English until the 16th century and it was named after the fruit.

Photo Nik Mitchell

For me, a Robin has always been a special bird. I spent a lot of my youth in my garden, I was always digging or planting and I was particularly happy when I was followed by a Robin, I’m sure this is what helped me to form such a strong relationship with nature.

This Christmas why not gift someone a Robin nest box, they prefer an open fronted box, situated in a location with natural cover. If a Robin sets up home in your garden you can guarantee it will be full of joyful song all year round.

Happy Christmas everyone!


  1. Some useful facts there. If everyone took some time to relax and get out into the open and just listen they might be surprised at all the different sounds from our birds.

    We need more trees in Thanet to bring the wildlife in. It has become too urbanised for many species now. There used to be corridors of fields full of wildlife which has now been lost to developments of houses going up at alarming rates. Thanet, once being mainly farmland is now filled with buildings and concrete. Plant more trees this Winter.

  2. My wife and I are blessed to live in the countryside in Minster/Monkton/Acol we have Robins, Blue tits, Great tits, long tailed tits, Goldfinch, Sparrows, Jays, red and green Woodpeckers, fantastic.

  3. I really enjoyed this article,its very interesting and informative. Robins visit our garden and I love how they’re not very nervous. I do agree with a comment above that we definitely need more trees planted due to over developments and losing much needed farmland.

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