Mentioning blackbirds yesterday reminded me of robins.
This is the European robin, a red-chested bird about the same size as a sparrow – male and female look the same. This is a favorite British bird, partly because it’s so bold… hopping
around the flower beds picking up insects and worms turned up by the
gardener’s spade, especially in winter. The males sing prettily in the
breeding season, even at night. In Britain, many females migrate south for the winter, the males stay put. It’s related to flycatchers and loves mealworms so much it will take them from your hand.
When European settlers crossed the Atlantic they found a slightly larger red-breasted bird – which, of course, immediately became known as the robin. The two sexes are similar, both with rusty red breasts, but are not identical, and they all fly south from here in Pennsylvania for the winter.
Belonging to the thrush family, the American robin seems to fill the niche that blackbirds fill in Britain – often nesting in gardens, feeding on the ground eating grubs and insects as well as taking fruit from bushes. Here too, the male has an attractive song. Their British relation the blackbird loves dried fruit so much that it too can be tamed; the American robin seems too wary.
Males in both species react strongly to anything red and will even attack a ball of red wool on a fence post.
We have robins nesting on some trellis in the garden here in PA, they’re proving more cautious than European robins and blackbirds, both of which tolerate gardeners well, but are getting more used to us as we work outside. They realise, rightly, that the local blue jays are a far more serious threat.