It’s easy to see why the Robin is our favourite bird. They are common, occur in towns and gardens as well as the countryside, are confiding to the point of appearing friendly, easy to identify, have a nice orange patch on their breast and have beautiful dark eyes. Haven’t you ever looked deep into a Robin’s eyes? I have. You should.
I was sitting in the garden the other day as a Robin approached quite closely – our eyes met. Well, actually I, with my forward-facing eyes at the front of my head looked at the Robin and he or she, with their looking-everywhere-at-once eyes on the side of their head might have been looking at an insect, but probably saw me. Robin’s eyes are like deep pools and one could get lost in those eyes.
But they are not much to do with song.
Robins may, in fact do, have lovely eyes but they are vicious little b*ggers – always up for a fight with another Robin. They are, perhaps, a very British bird. Robins are a bit unusual in that in winter males and females each set up territories in which they feed and these territories break down in spring and pairs form more conventional territories. Robins sing through the winter to defend their territories and therefore males and fermales sing then, a slightly different song from the spring, breeding season, song which is, as far as I know, just sung by males.
Here’s a Robin singing near Eindhoven a couple of weeks ago, sounds just like the ones around my garden to me (even down to the calling Jackdaws in the garden);
Here’s one from Austria – sounds a little simpler in form, and less melodic to me, but it’s definitely Robin-ish;
And here’s a Robin from Yorkshire;
Whereas Song Thrushes and Great Tits belt out their songs, Robins and Blackbirds sing theirs with a degree of tenderness. And Robins always sound plaintive to me. This song is still, presumably, saying ‘keep out’ to other males and ‘come and get me’ to females, but it is the opposite of strident.
It’s the song of a bird with lovely eyes.