A Carol of Robins

by Harry Miller November 03, 2015

 - the most festive of birds.

Robin greetings card bv Daniel Mackie

It seems the English grammarians are yet to settle on a collective noun for robins, with options ranging from 'a riot of robins' to 'a bobbin of robins'. The most apt to me seems to be 'a carol of robins' though, bringing the bird's winter cheer to the fore. 

Erithacus rubecula, the beloved Robin Redbreast, was crowned Britain’s National Bird after claiming a respectable 34% of the general public's vote. Close in contention was the ever silent Barn Owl, the cat scolding Blackbird, and despite a final song, even Her Majesty’s Mute Swan nestles in at a mere 7th place.

So why do we love the feisty feathered friend of the gardener. Perhaps the collective noun is under-developed as you rarely see robins in a group. This is a bird that is so territorial that they’ll peck one of their own to death if certain boundaries are not respected.

Well, for one thing they’re very pleasing to the eye, and unlike many other bird species – where the male notably has a more attractive plumage – both sexes of the Robin show off the characteristic war paint. But upon closer inspection, is it indeed red?… What’s that you say, it’s orange? (How dare you!) But of course you’re right: the name for the colour orange didn’t even exist until a certain citrus fruit was brought to European shores in the 16th century. (Let’s leave peaches alone for the time being).

And as we go about our business being a nation of gardeners, the bold and plucky Robin will happily perch on your spade whilst you take a breather from turning over your rich and fertile beds. To you, he’s your chirpy little garden companion, an extra in your very own Disney feature, but to the opportunist Robin, you are a work horse, slaving away in the dirt and hauling out deep dwelling Goliath-like worms to the surface for a warriors dinner.

Then there is the Christmas depiction of this red-breasted icon, and if there’s one creature which is so closely associated with the festive season, it’s the Robin, (yes, then the donkey). From acquiring a coloured breast whilst tending to a crown of thorns belonging to a certain Jesus Christ, to even delivering our many Christmas cards – yes you heard right, back in the days of Queen Victoria they gave the name Robins to the postmen who were adorned with sprightly red tunics.

So if you hear bird song on a cold and frosty festive day, it will more than likely be the Robin, because only they are tenacious enough to hold their territories all year round; lucky for us with a beautiful song. And if there’s more than one, (if they haven’t yet pecked each other to death!), then by all means use a ‘carol of Robins’ for your collective noun.

See Daniel's two Robin designs, available as greetings cards.

Flutter over to the whole DM Songbird Collection

Image © Daniel Mackie 

Harry Miller
Harry Miller


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in News / Work in progress / Mythology

Kingfisher - Halcyon Days

by Daniel Mackie March 12, 2021

In Greek mythology, Halcyone and Ceyx were lovers who incurred the wrath of the god Zeus by mocking him and his wife. Angered, Zeus killed Ceyx.

Read More

Belling The Cat- Aesop's Fable

by Daniel Mackie December 30, 2020

Ideas are nothing, execution is everything.
Belling the Cat is a fable first recored in the 12th ceuntry. A group of mice debate plans to neutralise the threat of a marauding cat. One of them has an idea of placing a bell around its neck, so that they will be warned of its approach. The others applaud the plan, until one mouse asks who will volunteer to place the bell on the cat. All of them make excuses!

Read More

Tiger in Buckinghamsire!

by Daniel Mackie June 14, 2020

This is Mack's Tiger. It was part of a school project based on my work and a theme of animals in the natural habitat.  Mack created this on Procreate on his mums iPad

Read More