Nature with Nik Mitchell: Why are Robins so friendly?

Nik with his friendly Robin

This year I spent a lot of time trying to tame a robin that sang to me in the winter to feed from my hand.  It’s become my little buddy that I give breakfast to every morning when I walk the dog.

Many gardeners might notice how the Robins may follow them round the garden looking for tasty worms they unearth with their spade but how have Robins learnt to do this and associate us with food?

The Robin, standing only 14cm tall is the nation’s favourite bird and was formerly classified as a member of the thrush family but is now considered to belong to the old world flycatcher family.

Time to grab an easy meal

They are well known for being tame but why? The reason is that they evolved to follow large mammals utilising the disturbance they made to the ground either by foot or a when something like a wild boar would be rooting with its snout to dig for food. The little Robins learnt to slip in and out to grab an easy meal of disturbed insects from the soil.

This ancestral behaviour is still with them to this day as they ow follow us humans in the hope of that easy meal.

Earning the trust of a wild animal is something very special and every morning when I offer a handful of mealworm to my feathered friend it fills me with joy as he hops onto my hand and grabs a treat.

Give it a go.

Thanet nature expert Nik Mitchell runs the Get Wild page on facebook


  1. My Plum tree I planted about 10 years ago is now over 20 meters high, and has been colonised by mostly Sparrows. I put out the bird feeders around 7.30 every morning, and soon after a motley band of pigeons arrive to pick up the seeds the Sparrows chuck out. Just lately a pair of Magpies have tried to move in, which I discourage, as they will take other birds young. Anyone know where I can get a decent water pistol, my last one broke!

  2. Evolved to follow large mammals … makes perfect sense. I love Robins’ sheer boldness.
    Aw Dumpton, I get how you feel but maybe you shouldn’t interfere ‘cos it is how it is and we ‘large mammals’ do an awful lot of interfering in the lives of animals. Though come to think of it I’d be interested to know if water pistols do deter magpies ‘cos their ‘confidence’ is off the scale!

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