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European robin, December 2015, American University of Beirut campus, Beirut, Lebanon

The European robin (Erithacus rubecula)

By Fouad Itani

The European robin (Erithacus rubecula), is a distinctive looking bird from the Muscicapidae family. It measures 14cm in length, with a wingspan of 22cm, and an average weight of 18g.

The European robin  is by far the king of the gardens and one of the most beautiful chats to occur in the region. It has a distinctive orange breast and face, brownish upperparts, a creamy belly, and brown legs and feet. The bill and eyes are colored black. Both sexes look alike, and Juveniles lack the orange breast and are spotted with golden brown.

Juvenile European robin feeding on worms, May 2016, Hyde park, London, UK
Juvenile European robin feeding on worms, May 2016, Hyde park, London, UK

Outside the breeding season the European robin is a solitary bird and is fiercely territorial over food supply.  Usually not more than one robin will occupy a small garden, unless it is his mate. The European robin has a beautiful call. It will sing to proclaim territory and attract a mate.

A European robin portrait, December 2015, American University of Beirut campus, Beirut, Lebanon
A European robin portrait, December 2015, American University of Beirut campus, Beirut, Lebanon

When it comes to choose a nesting site the European robin isn’t picky at all, it will go with anything that offer shelter such as a hole, crevices, sheltered banks, flower pots, dense vegetation … The nest is composed of plant material usually using moss, leaves, grass, and feathers. An average of two clutches of six eggs are laid throughout the breeding season and are incubated by the female alone. The male feeds the female while she is brooding. The young hatch after two weeks, and become independent after three weeks. Both parents feed and look after their chicks.

European robin feeding on a caterpillar, December 2015, American University of Beirut campus, Beirut, Lebanon
European robin feeding on a caterpillar, December 2015, American University of Beirut campus, Beirut, Lebanon

The European robin will  feed predominantly on insects, spiders , and worms, it will also consume fruits, berries and seeds. In most countries the robin is considered to be a gardener’s friend and would never be harmed, however in some Mediterranean countries this bird is still hunted and killed.

In Lebanon the European robin is a scarce passage migrant , but a common winter visitor to most of the country and recorded in a variety of habitats such as orchards, gardens, and woodlands.

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