Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Science 4: Robin

In the run up to Christmas, Communicate Science offers you 20 Christmas Science Facts. We'll post one every day until the 25th December.

A small chirpy robin, perched on the edge of a snow covered field is a Christmas card image that we are all familiar with. The robin (Erithacus rubecula) is, according to the RSPB, the UK's favourite bird. It's probably the same story in Ireland where it is a very familiar sight in both urban and rural environments.

While males and females both look the same, with their distinctive red breast, young birds lack the red colouration and are spotted and golden brown.

One estimate puts the number of individual robins in Ireland at between 3 and 4 million! Research in UCC a few years back showed that the average number of eggs laid by robins in Ireland (4.6) is lower than that in Britain. However, more chicks seem to survive here than in the UK.

Robins are intensely territorial birds, which can lead to fights breaking out between birds defending their territory from 'invading' robins. The red breast helps robins to ward off intruders.


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