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Weekly Wildlife notes: 20-26th December

Robins are a common sight in the garden and are a faithful companion at the allotment but here are five facts that you might not know about this familiar favourite:

1. Song – Robins are one of the few birds where both the male and the female birds sing and they do so throughout winter as they hold feeding territories. Their beautiful fluty song is the main bird song in winter and they have learned to sing at all hours of night under the streetlamps, so you might well have heard a Robin as you made your way home from the midnight church service this Christmas. Come spring the females will stop singing and the males will beef up their song to a richer breeding territory song.

2. Population trend – great news for Robin lovers is that their population in the UK has shown a marked increase over the last 30-40 years. The reasons for this are not clear but it appears to be due to improved breeding success with more young being reared to fledging each year than previously.

3. Winter Robins – as well as our Robins we have Robins from Europe, especially Scandinavia and Northern Europe come to our countryside each Autumn. Some of these pass through on their way to warmer winter quarters in Iberia and Northern Africa, while others stay and enjoy sunflower hearts and oats on our bird tables.

4. The red breast – the striking red breast has been associated with the cross and with sacrifice and is worn by both males and females but what is its purpose? The red breast is used when defending a territory and birds will position their body to maximise the amount of red showing to other Robins they see as a threat. The combination of the red and song is enough to settle most conflicts but if an intruder does not back down ferocious fights can ensue with a fatal outcome not unknown for the loser.

5. Their name – everywhere else in Europe calls Robins a variation of redbreast in their native language and the UK is alone using an alternative name. The name Robin was first used in the late middle-ages as an affectionate nickname – Robin Redbreast –Robins were clearly as much of a favourite of the people in times past as they are now. Over time this was shortened to Robin but it was only in the 1950s that the name ‘Robin’ was officially used on the British list.

Elsewhere in the parish the winter thrushes had been busy gobbling the berries and are starting to spread out a bit through the countryside. The cold weather is bringing birds into the garden so make sure you top up your bird feeders and enjoy the sound and colour of grateful visitors as you sit and digest your turkey and Christmas pudding.

If you are free next Sunday then do consider joining us for the bird walk or moth catch - it is forecast to be mild and the timing of dawn makes this the most civil start time of the year - why not join us? For all the recent sightings do check out our sightings page and as always please let us know any sightings or updates about the amazing wildlife we have around Aldbourne.

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