Posted: Monday 19 December 2011
by Richard Jones

I’m going to run a Christmas card count this year — which animal will feature most often in these seasonal greetings?


I’m going to run a Christmas card count this year — which animal will feature most often in these seasonal greetings? Robin ought to be odds-on favourite, surely. I’ve just had a pathetically cursory internet-based research session, as to why this little bird should be so associated with Christmas, but I won’t bore you with the multitude of spurious and daft reasons spouted. I don’t believe any of them. Easy and cheery spot-colour in early stationery printing is my best guess.

It’s enough to know that robins are bright, distinctive, friendly (or fearless), and the image of one perched on the wooden handle of the garden spade is about as kitsch as they come.

For some strange reason, I don’t see robins in my garden very often. There’s always one about up at the allotment, though, and a few days ago one pursued me doggedly around Nunhead Cemetery. They must be about in East Dulwich. Maybe my garden sits on the boundary of two territories, and is avoided by robins unless they are in especially pugnacious mood.

I’m not overly sentimental when it comes to birds, if I ever have the strength I’ll relate the lost duckling and the hungry herring gull anecdote some time, but I have one soft spot for robins. Way back in the last century (late 1970s) I organized a Sussex University Natural History Society dawn chorus walk, and roped in a local ornithologist. Rendezvousing in Stanmer Park on the outskirts of Brighton, we set off in the May gloom at 4-something in the morning. The first bird of the day, and still about the only song I can recognise, was a lone robin. Lovely.

Now back to those cards. Nope, robin is still a long way behind. Penguins, it seems, are winning by several lengths. I blame Happy Feet.

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Talkback: Robins
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kathryn.brock 22/12/2011 at 09:22

I have a robin which frquents my garden everyautumn and winter. it feeds and watches the activities if other birds as well as me. At dusk it sits near the bird feeder and as it gets dark it has supper befire flying away to roost.I call it Peter.

4Kate 22/12/2011 at 16:19

I'm surprised that anyone should question why robins are associated with Christmas. When Christ was in the manger, the little fire available was fanned by the robins' wings so that the infant could keep warm. In doing so their breast became scorched. Thereafter all robins have red breasts. I am 80 and was told that story throughout my childhod. I prefer to believe it!

lijemc 22/12/2011 at 17:35

I love robins. They come really close and it's great watching them. One of our robins always visits the bird table with 3 blue tits. They all wait in a nearby tree and take it in turns to grab some food!

donutsmrs 22/12/2011 at 18:08

I've got a Robin that comes into my garden every day, he is always the first one at the feeders in the morning and is always the last to leave in the evening. 4Kate, I have heard that story as well, I agree with you, that is why they are associated with Christmas, and Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a Robin or two.

acwid 22/12/2011 at 19:22

Evening folks Christmas greetings, the old chap on the next plot to me has a robin he can feed meal worms by hand.The little bird is wary of me only coming to 5 or 6 feet to feed.

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