Meet a garden regular: Robin
This article comes from the BTO’s Nestboxes: Your Complete Guide. Learn more.
© British Trust for Ornithology. Used with permission.
The ever-popular Robin was a runaway winner of a national poll in 2016 to nominate Britain's national bird.
There can be few lowland gardens in Britain that are not visited by Robins on a daily basis and it was no surprise when the species was recently adopted as our unofficial national bird after a public vote.
It is quite possible that you have already had Robins breeding in your locality, but such is their skill at camouflage, pinpointing exactly where the nest is located is no easy task. Their ingenuity is unbounded when it comes to concealing their nest site: some will select holes or crevices which are masked by ivy, while others opt for holes in tree trunks, tree roots or even beneath twigs under fallen leaf litter.
If your garden shed is of the ramshackle type, with permanent gaps in the door or windows, you might well find a Robin has taken up residence, building a nest on a shelf or other suitable surface that is out of reach of predators. The abandoned nests of other species, such as Blackbird, may also be taken over by enterprising Robins.
Hiding from danger
To protect vulnerable chicks, you will need to be as conscientious as the parent Robins when deciding the location of an open-fronted box. Most Robins nest low down (under two metres from the ground), but your top priority is to find a place that is almost completely out of sight.
Boxes can be snuggled under over-hanging vegetation in a ditch or
embankment, wedged deep into the fork of a thorny bush or behind a creeper growing on a wall or fence. Don’t worry about a clear flightpath to the nest because Robins are quite happy to clamber through vegetation and watch for predators before leaving the vicinity of the nest.
Robins are very adaptable and will vary the size of their nest to fit the available space. If the first nesting attempt is successful, it is likely the Robins will choose the same nestbox for their following broods.
An alternative design
An alternative design which is also very suitable for Robins is a small box with a 65mm diameter entrance hole: this may offer the chicks a slightly better level of protection from both weather and predators. One thing you should avoid doing is providing nestboxes made of metal or ceramic: Robins are often depicted nesting in ‘cute’ objects such as kettles or teapots, but these are far more prone to condensation and offer less insulation than wooden boxes.