are robins aggressive to other birds

Kung-fu robin: The robin sings to mark out its territory and is fiercely territorial and wont tolerate another robin on its turf

Its public is one of a tame, friendly bird, when in reality, it is one of the most aggressive birds you could meet! If you’re another robin that is. Robins are fiercely territorial throughout the year and will not tolerate another robin entering their patch of turf. And it’s not just the males. Females also defend a territory through autumn and winter. Unlike other bird species, both the males and females have red breast feathers, making them difficult to tell apart.

Zoologists studying its behaviour revealed that a robin will attack anything that remotely resembles another robin in its territory — basically anything displaying a red patch — including stuffed birds (and even headless stuffed birds!), soft toys, or their own reflection in a window, car mirror or windscreen. They will also attack a tuft of red feather. Robins will even fight to the death if necessary.

Thankfully it rarely comes to that, and most intruders can be deterred through song. While we like to think robins sing for joy, ours and their own, they actually use song to defend their territory and tell other robins ‘this place is already occupied’.

In the northern hemisphere, it is generally just male birds who sing, but the robin is one of the exceptions! Although shorter and less elaborate than the male’s song, it could be said that the female’s song is more chirpy and bright.

Of course, holding its own territory outside the breeding season means it’s important the female can also sing. Birdsong is a non-contact way of delineating boundaries between territories.

A powerful singing voice tells your neighbours that you’re still alive, and well-fed and healthy enough to be able to sing, so it’s not worth trying to intrude on your land. Another strong reason for birds to sing is of course to attract a mate. Studies have shown that females often judge potential mates by the quality of their song.

In late winter, robins roam outside their territories as they try to find a mate, and once they do, nest-building begins, usually in early March but sometimes earlier. A robin’s nest is cup-shaped and made from moss and dead leaves, often lined with animal hair. A friend of mine had a West Highland White and when she discovered an old robin’s nest in her shed, she found it was thickly lined with the white hairs of her terrier.

Robins aren’t fussy about where they nest. They have built their nests in the funniest of places, including empty shoes, hats, or pots, under car bonnets, or even in the pocket of a jacket hanging in a garden shed. Of course, they also make nests in hedges and shrubs, close enough to the ground, among dense vegetation.

Robins can have two, and sometimes three, nests in a year. The female lays between four and six eggs. Only the mother incubates the eggs, for around 14 days until they hatch. But once hatched, both parents work together to feed the chicks for another two weeks until they’re ready to leave the nest.

Of course, their flight feathers may not have fully grown in at this time, so sometimes they leave the nest before they are able to fly. Young robins are a similar size and shape to their parents, but their colours are very different, being speckled brown, and this probably helps to offer camouflage as they hop in and out of shrubbery in these early days of life.

Only about half of robin eggs laid will survive to adulthood, and the average lifespan in the wild is around two years.

While common in woodland, parks and gardens, robins are also successful in most Irish habitats, probably due in no small part to their feistiness and opportunistic attitude. Throughout summer they concentrate of invertebrates, worms, insects and spiders.

In winter, when insects are hard to come by, they concentrate on berries, fruit and seeds, including from garden bird tables. Their fluffed-up coat of feathers can make them look fat and well-fed, but they do this to help keep warm and underneath all those feathers they might be underweight, which can be fatal at this time of year.

A robin can’t hang on your birdfeeders like the tits and finches, so you’ll have to choose a flat surface or the ground if you want to feed robins.

The robin’s habit of following humans around the garden probably evolved long ago, when this opportunistic species learned to follow animals like wild boar. While the omnivorous boar digs in the ground for food — such as roots, tubers, bulbs, and insects like leatherjackets — a quick robin could grab a handy worm.

When you see a robin watching and waiting in your garden, you may see it as either friendly or fierce, but I think a cold winter’s day is always warmed by their cheery presence.

Juanita Browne has written a number of wildlife books, including My First Book of Irish Animals and The Great Big Book of Irish Wildlife.

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I believe a robin’s cheery presence always brightens a chilly winter’s day, regardless of your perception of them—you may see them as friendly or fierce when they watch and wait in your garden.

The robin’s tendency to follow people around the garden most likely developed a long time ago when this sly species discovered how to follow creatures such as wild boar. A fast robin could snag a useful worm while the omnivorous boar searches the ground for food, including roots, tubers, bulbs, and insects like leatherjackets.

If you wish to feed robins, you will need to choose a level area, such as the ground, as they are unable to perch on your birdfeeders like tits and finches can.

The average life span of robins in the wild is two years, and only about half of the eggs laid will mature into adults.

They focus on berries, fruit, and seeds during the winter months when insects are scarce, especially from garden bird tables. Although they may appear overweight and well-fed due to their fluffy coat of feathers, they may be underweight, which can be deadly during this time of year. They do this to stay warm.

Naturalist David Lindo, who oversaw the voting, said, “Even though the robin appears to be a friendly bird, it is extremely territorial and defensive of its territory and I presume that reflects us as an island nation that we will stand our ground.”

And its true that they are at ease around humans. Robins frequently approach gardeners in the hopes that while they till the soil, they will turn over worms. It is estimated that they reside in 85% of British gardens, and this, along with their year-round visibility, has made them a well-known and cherished sight.

However, according to Madge, they are no more violent than the majority of other species. “Its something that all birds will do. When two people disagree, the losing robin will typically leave the fight before it gets deadly. Despite “bird table rivalry,” they live in harmony with other species that have distinct diets.

According to Madge, people only perceive them as aggressive due to “the contrast with their reputation as a friendly bird” and their inclusion in Christmas cards and folklore.

Indeed, according to Grahame Madge of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), they “jealously guard” their patches. A male will try to claim enough land so that a female, them, and their offspring have access to food.


Do robins keep other birds away?

Robins may also consider mockingbirds, waxwings, and other birds that compete for fruit to be enemies—they often chase these birds away.

Why are robins bullies?

European robins are also tougher and meaner than they look – British author Philip Hoare famously called them “vicious murdering bullies” due to their ruthless instinct to defend their territory.

Are robins good to have in your yard?

Robins help control insect populations. They also are very important for spreading seeds and for the growth of new trees and bushes in new areas. The fruit they eat contains seeds, which robins may drop in other places. The breeding season for robins is from April through July.