Ireland's Biodiversity Awareness Campaign

European Robin – Erithacus rubecula

 

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is a common red-breasted bird that is found year-round in gardens and woodlands throughout Ireland. While it is often mistaken to be related to the American Robin, due to its similar red colouring, the European Robin is a distinct species that can be found throughout all of Europe, even as far east as Siberia. The species vary slightly throughout Europe, with the common subspecies in Ireland and Great Britain known as Erithacus rubecula melophilus.

 

The European Robin was first described by the famous Swedish zoologist, Linnaeus, in the 18th century. Its Latin name is derived from the latin word ‘ruber’ meaning red due to the distinctive red colouring found on the adult birds. Younger robins are a mottled brown colour, which matures to an orangey-red as the bird ages. Robins are known for their flute-like songs and they grow to be approximately 12.5 to 14.0 centimetres long and weigh only 20 grams.

 

Male robins are highly territorial and are known to attack other small birds if they enter their territory. However, most robins are often quite friendly to humans, as they frequently approach gardeners in search of earthworms.

 

Despite its prevalence (approximately four million robins in Ireland), the European Robin has a very limited life span, which averages 1.1 years. However, once the robin reaches this age, it can often live much longer, up to five years old. Its natural predators include the owl and the sparrowhawk, but the domestic cat kills 15 times as many robins per year as its natural predators.

 

The robin is often associated with good luck, especially around Christmas and the New Year. So, when you see your first robin of 2010, quickly make a wish before the robin flies away!

 

If you would like more information on the European Robin, please contact the following organisation:

 

BirdWatch Ireland (http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/)

 

 

©2007 Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government