Stories from the Barn

A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands

Robin Redbreast the Gardener’s Friend

Robin redbreast

Robin Redbreast, Britain’s national bird.

The robin redbreast always brings a smile during the Winter months. The bright red breast of the Robin and its lovely song make it one of Britain’s most recognizable birds. Sometimes called Robin redbreast, all names for the bird are Ruddock or Robinet.

It is also perhaps one of our most endearing birds. Whenever you venture into the garden up pops a robin. The picture of the Robin sitting on the handle of a garden fork epitomizes the behaviour of the bird. They are always watchful for any invertebrates that might appear in the turned earth and sit head cocked to one side. A Robin can be tamed to come and feed from your hand but sometimes a Robin will just follow a human around without feeding. Indeed they are very curious little birds.

They are members of the thrush family and just like their family members which include blackbirds, sing beautifully.

Robin redbreast

The Robin has been chosen as Britain’s national bird.

In 2015 the feisty Robin was voted in as Britain’s National bird. It seems the British public felt a very strong connection to this plump little bird, with its twiggy legs and beady eye. It is probably the one bird that most of us could name.

The Robin is entrenched in our ideas of what Winter and Christmas is all about. The image of the Robin redbreast has been captured in art form more than any other bird. Most gardens have a resident Robin and they are the first to put in an appearance at a well stocked bird feeding table. They associate humans with food and so appear as if by magic at our side whenever we go out of doors.

Where do the Robins go in Summer?

The Robin is a year round resident of the British Isles but strikes up a pose in our gardens in Winter so we notice it more. It comes into our gardens for food when food gets scarce in the hedgerows. In the Summer it disappears into hedges and we tend to lose sight of it but it’s still there! We associate it with Christmas not just because it is a daily visitor to our bird tables but there is a wealth of Christian mythology associated with robin redbreast.

‘The Robin and the Wren are God’s two holy men’

Robin Redbreast

Myths around Robin Redbreast.

There always has to be a tale about how animals got to look the way they do. Born out of story telling around a fire, these tales of our countryside became spun into myths that have lasted hundreds of years and longer. The obvious question to ask about the Robin is “How did you get that red breast?”

There are many tales of the Robin and the Wren, another familiar little garden bird, working together. One story is that the wren stole fire from heaven and returned to earth aflame. His feathers so scorched by flames that all the other birds contributed one feather to redress him. The Robin was so anxious for his safety that he came too close to the wren and also caught fire. This accounts for his red breast. Yet another legends tells that if the Robin and the Wren find the unburied body of a dead person, they will work together and cover it with leaves.

The Robin Redbreast and Christianity.

The legend is that when Christ was placed on the cross the Robin, a little grey bird alighted upon him. He saw the pain on Christ’s face as the crown of thorns cut into his flesh. Very carefully the Robin began to remove the thorns. The Robin was pricked by the thorns and this stained his breast with blood.

Another story is that the Robin carried a drop of water in it’s bill and carried it over the burning lakes of Gehenna a valley in Jerusalem. Here, it is thought, some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. The little bird soared above the flames and dropped the water to those suffering and in turn scorched it’s breast.

Many tales also place a Robin in the stable at Bethlehem. This may be because Robins will take shelter from Winter weather inside hay barns.

Feeding Robins from the bird table.

The Robins in our garden love the meal worm we put out and grated unsalted cheese. They are territorial birds and will defend their right to occupy the table so be sure to put plenty of food out for them to eat.

Feeding Robins

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